It'd been a long and hard argument that neither of them had felt like making, but in the end, they'd been forced to bring the little one along. Sam wanted to leave her in the car, the safest route, and Dean had killed the idea just as fast. "Forget it. As much as I'd love to leave her in the hotel room, we can't. Dreamworld scenario, no one would come in, she wouldn't hurt herself trying to get up onto a chair, but that's not gonna happen. And as for leaving her in the car, it's also not gonna work. One, the locks on my baby are, regrettably, easy enough to pop. Two, I'm not leaving her alone with my baby. Three, cops, Sam. We leave a kid in the car on a chilly night like this, and we'll get slammed."
"We can't bring her along on the actual hunt, Dean," Sam had insisted. "It's a hunt. She can't be more than three. This is a bad idea."
"Then one of us is just gonna have to babysit her," Dean had said, and just his tone had implied exactly who he thought should do the babysitting.
Despite her rambling in the car as they'd built a makeshift car seat as best as they could for her, she kept quiet once they reached the park. It was dark out, which had maybe enforced the idea of silence with her.
Sam highly doubted it had been the "shhh"s Dean had practiced and repeated while climbing out of the car, but who knew?
The park was deserted, and considering it was only really eight at night, Sam was a little surprised. Maybe the mutilations had done their work in ensuring people kept away from the pond.
The mutilations had finally turned up something for Sam as well. The land itself had never technically belonged to them, but from what Sam had read, a Native American tribe called the Kiowa had probably come through the area before they'd ended up a few states away in Oklahoma. In their folklore, they'd spoken of a few watery beasts, but the one that had kept popping was the Zemaguani. And, from various other sources, there was possible scientific evidence that the damn thing was real.
"What's this thing called again?" Dean asked quietly as they moved through the park.
Sam sighed and came to a stop, glaring at his brother. "No."
"I know why you want to know, Dean. And no."
"Just one more time, and I'll stop, I swear," Dean said with an unrepentant grin.
Sam finally sighed and conceded. "The horned alligator."
Dean snickered. Even as Sam was about to tell him off, the little one turned around from her determined march and put a finger to her lips. "Shhhh!" she stage whispered, before she headed off again.
It was Sam's turn to chuckle, even as Dean looked affronted. "I liked 'fissy' better," he mumbled, and in two quick strides they were caught up to the little one again.
They wandered through the paths, carefully and quietly after that. Whenever Sam glanced over at his brother, he found Dean standing and moving directly in front of the little one, keeping her always within arm's reach. The little one wasn't apprehensive, but she wasn't going anywhere, either, staying as close to Dean as she could get.
"I think you should be the one to babysit," Sam said softly. The glare from Dean was completely expected. "I'm serious."
"No, you're funny," Dean shot back, and Sam rolled his eyes.
"No, I'm serious. Who's she hanging behind?" Dean paused for a moment, and the little one dutifully stopped as well. Sam began to smile as he added, "Besides, you do a good job at keeping little ones safe. That much I remember."
The look Sam got then, the small pleased smile, was totally worth the pretended, annoyed eye-roll he received immediately afterwards. "You're such a girl," Dean mumbled. "But I'm not babysitting her. You will."
"I don't think so," Sam said.
"Now I'm the one being serious." Dean's tone made Sam glance back in surprise. "I mean it, Sammy. I'm not just good at protective little ones. I kinda like keeping the big ones safe, too. And that means you're back far enough away from this thing, but not far enough to not take a shot."
For all the annoying, big brotherly things Dean could do, this was worth them all. "Yeah, all right," Sam said, his chest warming and his smile broadening.
Dean rolled his eyes even harder this time and gave Sam a mock shove. "Chick-flick," he accused, before continuing on.
The little one paused beside Sam and asked, "Fissy?"
"It's okay," Sam answered. "He does that sometimes. He doesn't mean it, though." He bent down slightly and extended his hand to the little one, and she gave a bright smile before reaching up to put her tiny hand in his.
Two hours later, and Dean was kinda tired of sitting on the ground. They had to stay near the pond, which meant he couldn't sit on the benches on the path, and what kind of park didn't even have benches near the pond?
Not that he was blaming them, considering what happened to people near the pond, but still. His ass was a little numb at that point.
They'd made their way through the entire park, finally getting to the pond. No movement, no growling, no tracks, nothing. Nothing but quiet water and moonlight.
He glanced over near the base of the tree, further back from the pond than Dean was. Sam was taking off his jacket, and after a moment, Dean had to grin: Little Miss Fissy had fallen asleep against the tree trunk. The jacket was gently laid over her, and she slept on, unaware.
Sam glanced over towards Dean then, and when he caught his brother looking, he gave a smile of his own and made his way down towards Dean. "She's been out like a light for the past fifteen minutes," Sam said quietly. "One minute, she was telling me 'fissy' as softly as she could, the next..." He snapped his fingers. "I don't think I've ever seen someone fall asleep that fast."
"You used to do it all the time," Dean said, then pursed his lips shut and turned back to watch the pond a little ahead of him. Crap. He just had to ask for a chick-flick moment, didn't he?
Sam was quiet for a moment, then finally said, "You, uh, seem to have some experience with little ones trailing after you." He sounded amused, the bitch, and Dean turned a glare at him in time to see Sam try and smother his smile.
After a moment of silence, Dean finally sighed and gave in. "And saying the same thing over and over again. I've had a lot of experience with that."
"Wait. You mean I..."
"Oh yeah," Dean said, then raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You don't remember that?"
Slowly Sam shook his head. "You couldn't have been more than two or three yourself," Dean said softly, then grinned at the memories. An itty bitty Sammy, big eyes and bigger hair and the sweetest, brightest smile anyone could have.
And Dean was not going to admit that he'd do anything to see a smile like that on Sam's face again, because this was enough of a chick-flick moment as it was. Even in his own head.
"You used to follow me around everywhere I went. I couldn't walk without you trailing behind me like a puppy. Had to sit next to me in the restaurants, in the car, in the motels...I remember once, when we were in a store, you got separated from me for maybe five minutes. I found out when you started crying 'Deannie' over and over again."
"'Deannie'?" Sam asked incredulously.
Dean glanced at his brother. "You seriously don't remember any of this?"
"No, but keep going," Sam said. He looked enthralled with the idea, so with another eye roll Dean continued.
"Everywhere you went, you said 'Deannie' to everything. People'd ask you your name, you'd say 'Deannie'. Ask you what you wanted at the diners, 'Deannie'. Favorite color, what you wanted, what you were wearing, the answer was always 'Deannie'."
"I drove you nuts, didn't I," Sam said knowingly.
"Damn straight you did," Dean replied without hesitation. Sam snorted, and even Dean grinned. "It was kinda cool, though. Not everyday a guy gets made into a word of fascination and has his own midget stalker."
Sam heaved a sigh, and Dean's grin grew. It'd made Sam easier to find, too, and that day in the store, it'd been especially useful. Dean wasn't going to sit and explain how he'd panicked when Sam hadn't been behind him, how his chest had gotten tight when Sam had started crying, because, well, it'd take a lot of time. And the needle for the chick-flick gauge was buried deeply in one end, and Dean was done. Sam'd gotten enough chick-flick moment for the year.
"When did I stop with the whole 'Deannie' thing?" Sam asked.
Dean gave him a sideways glance and said, "When you learned the word 'chocolate'."
Sam did laugh then, but it was soft enough to hear a suddenly wide awake and cheerful voice behind them call out, "Fissy!"
The pond surged all at once, and Dean scrambled to his feet. "Sammy, go!" he shouted, and Sam was already running back to the little one. The horns came out first, then the teeth, and Dean got a glimpse of dark red eyes before he leveled the shotgun at its head and fired.
The horned alligator reared back for a moment, then came at him again. Dean fired another shot, sending it back a few feet, then stepped a few back himself to reload. The thing came at him again, and the shot came from further back, sending it stumbling into the mud around the pond.
And, of course, setting its sights on its new attacker, who was sitting by the tree, reloading himself, with the little one dutifully covering her ears.
"Screw this," Dean muttered and pulled out his handgun, firing off several shots at the alligator's head. Silver bullets hit home, one right after the other, and the thing dropped. And stayed dropped.
Dean stared at the corpse warily, but the eyes were open and sightless, and it wasn't moving. The thing was dead.
Slowly Dean turned to his brother, who looked surprised and possibly a little disgusted. "We've spent days looking for this thing, and that's it?" Sam repeated again. "We didn't even have to research anything, we could've just come down to the pond and-"
"Sam," Dean said, and Sam stopped short.
Sam couldn't even come up with a reply before the sound of sirens filled the air. "Fissy!" the little one exclaimed, clapping her hands at the sounds.
Dean hung his head and sighed.
Red and blue lights filled the night sky as the police scanned the area. A local scientist had been awakened by an onlooker with a cell phone, and was down near the pond, furiously trying to claim the proof of the horned alligator.
Thank god the cops hadn't told him about the two strangers responsible for killing it, who'd been taking a walk with their very licensed guns when the thing had suddenly attacked them. The little one had been hiding near the tree, and wasn't harmed in the slightest.
Sam sat back further on the park bench and watched the proceedings. "Why can't we just leave?" Dean whined.
"Because the cops need to make sure that the area's contained, that they have our statements, and that the guns are really licensed." Dean's eyes got comically round, and Sam savored the image for a moment before adding, "But I think since they're so grateful the thing's dead, they probably won't notice the paperwork missing for awhile."
Even before Sam pulled the papers out of his pocket, Dean was glaring at him. "If we weren't in the presence of a little one, you'd be hearing a lot of names," Dean threatened.
Sam grinned and glanced down at the little one between them, who was happily kicking her feet from where she sat. "I'm sure you do. And quit whining, because I know you're not leaving until someone comes to find her."
The cops were moving suddenly, and Sam glanced up at the commotion, only to find them trying to hold back a young woman. She was a young, pretty blonde thing, and she looked frantic, even as the cops tried to calm her down. As they got closer, Sam could make out what she was saying.
"...this high, and she was with an elderly woman this morning, our neighbor who watches her, and you don't understand, she's three, and she's my little sister-"
"Sissy!" the little one called from the bench, and the young woman's head whipped towards them.
"Now you say something else," Dean muttered, but the little one was already clambering off the bench. The woman was racing past the cops towards her, and a few seconds later, the little one was being swept up into her arms.
"Oh god, Emily," the woman whispered, holding her tight. "I was so scared..."
"We found her this morning, actually," Sam offered as he stood. The woman tore her gaze from the little one, Emily, and Sam smiled. "I'm Sam. This is my brother, Dean. We called the police, tried to see if anyone was missing a little one, but..."
"Thank you so much," the woman whispered, then laughed through her tears. "Emily's my little sister, and my parents are out of town, but I had to go to work so Mrs. Wemberly watched her." She frowned slightly. "The cops haven't found her, but she wouldn't have just left Emily."
Sam merely glanced at Dean. The little one being left alone in the park that morning made a lot more sense now. No need to tell the big sister that; she looked freaked enough as it was.
She glanced at Emily and raised her eyebrow, still sniffling. "No more babysitters for you, okay? Just big sis."
"Fissy!" Emily exclaimed, and the woman glanced over at Sam with confusion.
"We didn't do it," Dean declared, holding his hands up.
Sam rolled his eyes. "She kept saying that when we found her."
The woman glanced at Emily briefly, then sighed. "Sissy, fissy, it's all the same," she finally said. "But thank you, both of you. You have no idea how much she means to me."
"Actually, I think we do," Sam said, and even before he caught sight of Dean's exasperated face, he was grinning. He turned away, Dean stepping up to walk beside him.
"Didn't we do enough chick-flick moments earlier?" Dean complained. "Seriously man. Leave me a shred of dignity here."
"You're the one who told me all about little me-"
The plaintive cry made them both turn back to see Emily reaching past her sister, whimpering and sniffling with her eyes locked on Dean. "Fissy fissy fissy!" she cried again with a hiccup.
"Emily, what...?" The woman went from surprised to shocked when Dean hurried back over and took the little one's hands in his own.
"Fissy," she whimpered miserably. "Fissy, fissy, fissy-"
"Hey, what's going on here?" Dean said softly, bending down to give her a smile. "You're gonna be fine sweetie, okay?"
Emily didn't look convinced. "Fissy," she said again, then sniffled.
"Hey, you've got your big sis now. That means she's awesome by default," Dean joked. When the little one still didn't look convinced, he sighed and gently brushed away hair from her forehead. "You were a big help today, and I'm glad I found you." He tapped the end of her nose and finally got a giggle. "You be good, okay? Fissy?" he added after a moment.
"Fissy," she agreed, and Dean grinned, even as he stepped away and back towards Sam. This time, Emily waved instead of cried, and Dean waved back. Sam waved too, and then Emily's sister carried her in the other direction. Emily rested her little head on her sister's shoulder and smiled at them until they disappeared in the sea of people.
Dean still had a small smile on his face, and Sam couldn't help but push his luck. "I think it's actually all big siblings who are awesome by default," he said, and Dean's smile got a little wider and a tiny bit sappier for just a moment.
Then he rolled his eyes and elbowed Sam. "Bitch," he said, stepping ahead of Sam. "You comin' or what?"
Sam only shook his head and followed behind him. "Should I call you 'Deannie' now?"
"Only if you want to get slapped really hard."
"Deannie. Deannie Deannie. Deannie Deannie-"
"Oh my god, don't you dare."