Summary: Pre-Series – Kidnapped/Injured Sam / Big Brother Dean – Dean didn't panic. Not at first. Not until he realized Sam wasn't just hiding or playing a prank. The kid was gone.
Disclaimer: Not mine
Warnings: Usual language
A/N: A one-shot that turned into a three-shot...and thankfully is not based on a true personal story. I'm often afraid to go to Walmart, but this is not why.
If you get lost, you can always be found. ~ Phillip Phillips
Dean didn't panic.
Not at first.
In fact the first emotion Dean felt when he turned the corner of the aisle and found it empty – discovering Sam was not where the 12-year old was supposed to be – was annoyance...quickly followed by that strange mix of pissed and worried.
Because Sam knew better than to wander around the store without letting Dean know where he was; especially a store as big and sprawling as Walmart.
Well, not just Walmart; Super Walmart, like the store demanded superhero status for having absolutely everything you could possibly want all in one place at one low price for your shopping convenience.
Dean sighed and shook his head; still standing at the end of the aisle and freshly hating being sent on supply runs.
"We passed a Walmart on the way in..." John had commented as he had stood between the two beds. "While I'm gone, I need you to pick up a few things. More salt, spray paint, candles, rope, gun oil..." his voice had faded as he had paused in packing his duffel and had stared at his oldest as Dean had sat in one of the chairs at the small table in the motel room's corner.
Dean had arched an eyebrow at his dad. "What?"
"You getting this?" John had asked; his tone annoyed at the realization that Dean had not been writing anything down on the motel stationery in front of him.
Dean had nodded, smiling. "It's all up here," he had cheekily told John and had pointed to his head; tapping the side of his forehead with the pen he had held.
Sam had snorted, laughing at Dean's response from where he had been sprawled on his stomach on the bed farthest from the door; his textbook and notebook both open on the mattress as he had completed his homework.
John had rolled his eyes and had resumed packing. "Also check first aid supplies and staple food supplies and – "
" – Dad..." Dean had interrupted; had tried not to look as bored as he had felt; expertly flipping the pen between his fingers. "I know the drill," he had informed with all the cockiness of a 17-year old. "I've been on supply runs before."
John had zipped his duffel. "Good," he had praised dryly. "In that case, I don't expect you to forget anything."
There had been a beat of uncomfortable silence.
Dean had squirmed in his seat at the indirect reprimand; remembering all too well the last time he had been sent on a supply run – and had not taken a list – and had returned without three of the items John had requested.
John had stared at Dean meaningfully. "We clear?"
Dean had nodded; hating when his dad could still make him feel like he was five-years old. "Yes, sir."
"Good," John had replied and then had turned to the opposite bed. "Sam..."
Sam had glanced up expectantly.
"I want that Latin translated when I get back," John had ordered, pointing at the old book resting on top of the dresser. "You can't learn a language if you don't work at it every day," he had reminded; his tone firm.
Sam had nodded and had sighed as he had glanced in the direction of the Latin text they had borrowed from Bobby Singer the last time they had stopped by the older hunter's house.
"Sam..." John had prompted, still staring down at his son; wanting verbal confirmation that Sam had heard him and had understood what was expected.
Sam had glanced back at his dad, nodding again. "Yes, sir."
John had returned the nod and then had half-smiled. "Be good," he had told his youngest, sounding like any other dad departing on a trip. "And mind your brother."
Sam had nodded once more at the familiar order and had smiled up at John as his dad had roughly tousled his floppy hair; recognizing the gesture as the affection it was.
John had winked at his 12-year old before tossing his duffel over his shoulder and turning to face his oldest. "Dean..."
Dean had stood from where he had been sitting at the table; crossing to John and nodding his understanding of everything contained in that one word – reminders about security and vigilance; about following orders and fulfilling expectations; about maintaining secrecy and self-reliance; and most importantly...
"Watch out for Sammy," John had instructed quietly and then had glanced over his shoulder at their youngest as Sam had once again become immersed in his homework.
Dean had nodded; wondering if John really thought it was necessary to say that every time he left them alone; hoping their dad knew by now that Sam was always his top priority...whether John was in town or not.
Dean had sighed. "Yes, sir," he had said anyway because he had known that was what John had expected.
John had nodded his approval and had squeezed Dean's shoulder before patting his oldest on the back and crossing to the motel room's door.
Dean had smiled – recognizing the rough affection just as Sam had done – and had followed behind John.
"Bobby thinks we're dealing with a shifter, so this hunt shouldn't take but a couple of days," John had commented as he had exited their room with his duffel slung over his shoulder. "I'll call with coordinates for you boys to meet up with me later."
Dean had watched John cross to his truck. "Yes, sir," he had replied, knowing the drill.
John had nodded as he had opened the driver's side door; tossing his duffel into the cab of his truck before pinning Dean with a hard stare as his oldest had continued to stand in the motel room's doorway.
"Don't let your guard down, Dean," John had reminded. "The supernatural is everywhere. Stay sharp. Keep an eye on Sam."
Dean had scowled; understanding the danger that constantly lurked but hating when John was so paranoid...and when their dad treated him like he had never taken care of Sam before.
"Yeah, Dad," Dean had agreed about his duties and had nodded. "You know I got this."
John had nodded as well; not saying another word as he had climbed into his truck and had left the parking lot; the red taillights glowing in the distance and then disappearing from view.
Dean had sighed; closing the motel room door and turning to face his brother. "Well..." he had begun. "Just you and me again, kiddo."
"Mmhmm," Sam had replied distractedly; his chin resting on the backs of his clasped hands as he had continued to lie on the bed and read.
Dean had glanced at the clock on the bedside table and then back at Sam. "Hungry?"
Sam had shrugged. "Not really."
Dean had snorted at the expected response. "Well, I am," he had informed and had closed Sam's book on his way to the bathroom.
Sam had made a sound of surprise and annoyance. "Dean..."
Dean had chuckled. "Relax, Francis. You can finish when we get back."
Sam had scowled as Dean had closed the door; tearing a sheet of paper from his notebook and folding it while waiting for his brother to finish his business.
"Where are we going?" Sam had asked as soon as Dean had emerged from the bathroom.
"To the diner down the road and then to Walmart," Dean had answered and had motioned for his brother to sit up. "Let's go. Put your shoes on."
Sam had groaned his displeasure but had done as he was told; sitting up on the side of the bed and putting on his sneakers. "I'm not hungry," he had complained as he had tied his laces. "Why can't I just stay here?"
"Don't start," Dean had warned, double-checking his weapons – gun in the waistband of his jeans, silver knife tucked in his boot – and had grabbed his leather jacket, putting it on. "It's time to eat, so you're eating. And you know you're not staying here by yourself. Dad would crawl my ass..."
Sam had rolled his eyes and had stood; stuffing the folded paper in the pocket of his jeans and following Dean out the motel room door. "I'm not a baby," he had grumpily reminded.
"You'll always be our baby, Sammy..." Dean had sweetly returned – only half joking – and had slung his arm around his brother's narrow shoulders as they had crossed to the Impala.
Sam had rolled his eyes again. "Oh my god..." he had moaned in typical 12-year old fashion. "Shut up," he had growled and had shoved Dean away even as he had quirked a smile.
Dean had chuckled and had flipped the hood of Sam's hoodie over the kid's head.
"Dean..." Sam had snapped – his voice high-pitched in complaint – and had quickly swiped the hood from his head. "Stop!"
Dean had chuckled again as Sam had used his hands to brush his hair back in place. "Your hair looks great, Samantha."
Sam had glared. "Shut up."
"You shut up," Dean had returned as they both had slid into their respective places on the Impala's bench seat; a companionable silence settling between them as they had set off on their adventure – dinner and Walmart.
Good times were sure to be had by all.
And that had been true.
The diner had been surprisingly clean; the food had been good and hot; and Sam had actually cleaned his plate without having to be threatened to do so.
When the brothers had arrived at Walmart, they had both been pleasantly surprised by the lack of people.
"Wow..." Dean had remarked at the relatively empty lot as he had steered the Impala into a parking space near the store's entrance. "This is creepy."
Sam had laughed. "Maybe it's just our lucky day."
Dean had snorted – thinking his idea of a lucky day would include not having to come to Walmart at all – and then had exited the car; arching an eyebrow when Sam came around the trunk unfolding a sheet of paper.
"It's the list," Sam had explained.
Dean had frowned. "What list?" He had paused. "Wait...Dad's list?"
Sam had nodded; holding the paper against his chest and rubbing his hand over the back of it in an attempt to further smooth out the wrinkles. "If we forget something, you might get in trouble again. So..."
Dean had smiled as Sam had shrugged the rest of his explanation; strangely touched – but not surprised – that his little brother would do that; would write down John's list in an attempt to help keep Dean on their dad's good side; and that even though John had made Dean responsible for completing the supply run, Sam had considered it his responsibility, too.
If we forget something...
Dean had smiled. "Thanks, Sammy," he had told his brother and had briefly squeezed the kid's shoulder; affection and appreciation in one gesture. "Although I totally had it all up here..."
Sam had rolled his eyes as Dean had once again pointed to his head while they had crossed the parking lot. "Whatever."
Dean had laughed.
"Good evening," a balding elderly man in a blue vest had greeted as the brothers had entered the store. "Welcome to Walmart."
"Thanks," Dean had drawled. "We're thrilled to be here."
The elderly man had chuckled as he had perched on his stool by the door and had adjusted his eyeglasses. "Trust me, son. No more thrilled than I am," he had assured dryly and then had winked good-naturedly.
Dean had grinned at the Walmart Greeter – having always liked spunky old people – and had grabbed a shopping cart from where they were lined up at the store's entrance.
"Alright, Sammy..." Dean had called to his brother as Sam had fallen in beside him. "Let's do this, List Master."
Sam had smiled at his title and had nodded his agreement about completing their task; glancing down at their list as the brothers had started cruising the aisles; systematically picking up everything they needed and making record time in finishing their supply run.
"Dude..." Dean had commented about how quickly they were moving through their list and had dumped an armful of black spray paint cans into their shopping cart. "At this rate, we'll be home in time to see The Simpsons."
Sam had wrinkled his nose at his brother's taste in television shows and had deposited his armful of red spray paint cans in the cart behind Dean. "Oh, boy."
Dean had scowled at his brother's dry response. "Hey. Don't judge me. Quality programming is in the eye of the beholder."
Sam had laughed. "Obviously..." he had agreed as he had walked beside Dean. "'Cause that show sucks. It's stupid."
Dean's eyes had widened. "Silence, blasphemer!" he had ordered; nudging his brother with the end of the shopping cart as they had turned the corner of the aisle.
Sam had laughed again, sidestepping the cart, and then had suddenly stopped; staring down the aisle of school supplies.
Dean had stopped as well, arching an eyebrow. "Something you need?"
Sam had nodded. "Highlighters. I'm almost out..."
"Oh my god..." Dean had commented and had shaken his head. "Sam. You can't keep hoarding highlighters. It's not healthy."
Sam had rolled his eyes. "I'm not hoarding them, Dean. I just use a lot of 'em. They help me study."
Dean had looked doubtful. "Yeah. Sure. But I'm still scheduling an intervention. Enough is enough, Sammy."
Sam had laughed. "Shut up," he had replied and then had glanced down the aisle and back at Dean. "Can I get some? Please?"
There had been a beat of silence.
"I'm such an enabler," Dean had lamented and then had shaken his head at himself; quirking a smile at his brother. "But sure. Get your precious highlighters."
Sam had beamed. "Thanks, Dean."
Dean had nodded; strangely sad that Sam got so excited over something as simple as new school supplies.
"You can keep going," Sam had told his brother and had handed over the list he had been carrying. "I'll catch up."
Dean had frowned as Sam had shoved the wrinkled paper into his hand; knowing that his brother was 12-years old and would be a teenager in a few months...but still feeling uneasy about letting the kid out of his sight, even if the store wasn't that crowded and even if he would only be a couple aisles away.
Sam had sighed at his brother's hesitation. "Dean..."
"I know," Dean had responded; because he had known Sam's familiar argument. "You're a big boy now and can be left by yourself." He had paused. "Good for you. We're all very proud."
Sam had glared. "Dean..."
Dean had sighed at his brother's insistence.
"Please?" Sam had added to the big-eyed expression he had turned on his brother. "It's not a big deal."
Dean had sighed again; because in their family, it kind of was a big deal to leave Sam by himself.
"Fine," Dean had reluctantly agreed. "I'll go check out the first aid supplies. But when I come back, your scrawny ass better be right here. You hear me?"
Sam had nodded; his expression serious...because he had known Dean wasn't playing.
"I will be," Sam had assured his brother. "I promise."
Dean had held Sam's gaze and then had nodded as well. "Good," he had replied. "And be careful," he had added as he had pushed the shopping cart in the opposite direction of where he was leaving his little brother.
"I will," Sam had responded and had walked further down the aisle in search of his highlighters.
Dean had watched him go – still hesitant to leave the kid by himself...especially after John's earlier reminder about watching the kid – but then had set off on his own mission to restock their first aid supplies...because Sam would be fine.
But that had been ten minutes ago.
And now that Dean's mission was complete and he was back at the school supplies aisle, Sam was nowhere in sight.
Dean narrowed his eyes as if he expected this to be a prank; as if his runt of a little brother was somehow hiding in the backpacks hanging up at the far end of the aisle and would jump out at him any second; the kid ridiculously pleased with himself for fooling Dean.
And if that was true, Dean was going to kick Sam's scrawny ass.
Because this shit wasn't funny.
Dean sighed; leaving the list and the shopping cart as he cautiously walked down the aisle. "Sam..." he called; his eyes scanning for any signs of movement to indicate a hiding little brother.
But there were no such signs.
And there was no little brother.
Dean swallowed; always intrigued that panic had a metallic taste. "Sam..." he called again and then blinked when he saw it – a four-pack of yellow highlighters in the middle of the aisle...like they had been dropped.
Dean felt his heart begin to beat faster; not liking how this scene was suddenly adding up as he bent to retrieve the highlighters; their plastic packaging crinkling in his grasp.
Dean remained crouched – his eyes surveying the aisle on a different level – and noticed black scuff marks on the dingy tiled floor...scuff marks that implied some sort of struggle...and scuff marks that would not have been made by Sam's sneakers.
Dean swallowed again, trying to remain calm; reminding himself those scuff marks could have been old...but knowing they weren't.
Instinct told him that whoever's boots had left those marks on the floor was also the person who had his kid brother.
And since Sam would never willingly go with a stranger, that meant Sam had been forcibly taken.
"Damn it..." Dean murmured, feeling his heart hammer in his chest as he stood; straightening to his full height as he gave another once-over to the school supplies aisle – seeing nothing – and then directed his attention beyond the aisle...where he saw something else lying in the middle of the floor.
Dean tossed the highlighters back on the shelf and walked in the direction of the new item – leaving their shopping cart behind because there were more important things to deal with now...like a missing little brother – and crouched again; picking up the decorative dishtowel that had apparently been knocked off the aisle's end-cap display.
Dean noticed more black scuff marks on the floor as well; like Sam had gone with whoever had approached him but had continued to physically struggle against the person.
Dean clenched his jaw in angry frustration.
Because he had only been a few aisles away...so why had he not heard this altercation? Why had he not sensed Sam was in danger? And why hadn't Sam called out to him?
Dean shook his head; shoving the dishtowel back onto the display and then looking further down the aisle...and noticing yet another item; like Sam had been leaving a trail as the person had led him away from the school supplies.
Dean felt a brief surge of relief. "Atta boy, Sammy..." he praised his brother; proud the kid was apparently keeping calm and using his training; his brother marking the kidnapper's escape route by knocking products off their shelves as he had passed by them on each aisle's end-cap.
Dean followed the trail; no longer picking up the items as he went but feeling the sense of urgency increase as the items occurred less frequently – like maybe the kidnapper had realized what Sam was doing as they had approached the back of the store; the kid's actions having purpose beyond just trying to get away.
The black scuff marks continued to periodically streak the floor – indicating Sam had continued to struggle – and Dean suddenly wished the store had been crowded; that someone had been around to see what had happened to his brother.
That's your job.
Dean blinked at the sudden sound of John's voice in his head.
You are supposed to watch out for Sammy. Nobody else.
Dean clenched his jaw as his dad's voice continued to lecture and berate him; because he already felt like a shitty big brother without having John's voice in his head confirming he had failed in his responsibility to take care of Sam.
Dean sighed and shook his head; his eyes scanning for the next clue his brother had left him...and then realized why the clues were becoming harder to find – because one of the store's employees was actually doing her job and placing the items back on the shelves while another man nearby was mopping the floor.
Both of which made Sam's trail suddenly turn ice cold.
"Shit..." Dean hissed at the realization and immediately stopped walking; his gaze turning left, then right as he stood in the middle of two sections of the store and tried to figure out which way to go.
Because there was no indication; no strewn items, no black scuff marks.
The middle-aged woman in the blue Walmart vest smiled pleasantly as she noticed Dean standing nearby. "Hi, there..." she called. "You look confused. Can I help you find something?"
"Yeah. My brother..." Dean responded bluntly before he could stop himself.
The male employee standing beside the woman laughed as he swung his mop back and forth over the tile. "Gave you the slip again, huh?"
Dean arched an eyebrow. "Again?"
The woman laughed as well. "We saw the two of you earlier," she explained. "Your brother's a cute little fella...even if he was giving you a fit."
Dean shook his head; not following the conversation. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, you know..." the woman replied good-naturedly. "He was just being a kid...squirming in your grasp and dragging his feet." She smiled. "I remember those days. My kids used to hate shopping, too." She paused, slightly frowning. "Although I would never have put up with them knocking stuff off of shelves like he was doing," she commented. "Your brother's a little too old to be throwing those kinds of tantrums. And maybe it's not your place to discipline him, but you make sure to tell your parents when you get home."
Dean stared at her; suddenly realizing this woman and the man beside her had seen Sam with his kidnapper.
The man glanced around the aisle and then back at Dean. "I guess if you're asking us where your brother is, that means the kid broke out of that death grip you had on him."
Dean felt his stomach clench at the fresh reminder of some stranger manhandling his brother.
"Poor kid," the man continued and chuckled. "He kept squirming as you drug him down the aisle and looked back at us with those big eyes like he was scared...like he thought you were gonna do something to him."
Dean's stomach clenched even tighter.
The man chuckled again and shook his head. "Little brothers, huh? Nothin' like 'em..."
Dean felt his heart pound in his chest; because the man was right – there was nothing like little brothers...and right now, Dean's little brother was fucking missing.
"Listen..." Dean began; his hard tone matching his expression as he drew closer to the employees in the middle of the aisle. "I'm not sure who you saw with my brother earlier, but it wasn't me."
The man arched an eyebrow; but if he felt threatened by Dean's tone or proximity, he didn't otherwise show it.
"Do you have a twin?" the woman asked seriously, tilting her head. "Because the guy with your brother looked just like you. It was quite remarkable."
"It wasn't me," Dean repeated more insistently. "And I don't have a twin."
"Ha!" the man laughed and shook his head like he didn't believe what Dean was saying. "Yeah, right."
Dean arched an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"
"I know how twins are," the man replied, continuing to mop the floor. "My sister's got twin boys, and they're always trying to trick people. So, I know what you boys are up to now..."
The woman frowned; her gaze flickering between her fellow employee and Dean. "Is that true?"
Dean shook his head. "No."
The woman stared at him. "Well, you must have a twin somewhere in the world," she asserted. "'Cause the guy with your brother looked just like you..."
"Sure he did," the man agreed. "'Cause they're twins. They're just screwin' with us. The other twin is probably with their little brother now laughing their asses off," he commented and looked around the aisle as if he expected to see spying children.
Dean narrowed his eyes; quickly losing patience with the two employees in front of him.
Yet he couldn't help but wonder if what they were saying was true – did he and Sam's kidnapper look that similar?
The thought was disturbing.
...especially since John had left only a few hours ago to hunt a shifter a few towns over.
Dean swallowed at the possible implications; that the shifter had arrived in this town instead...and had taken Sam.
The two occurrences were probably not coincidences.
...which meant this situation just went to a whole new level of fucked.
Dean sighed. "Listen..." he growled; because he really didn't have time to go back-and-forth with the two employees. "Believe what you want to believe. Just tell me which way they were heading..."
"Oh sure, hon. That way..." the woman told him, pointing to the right. "But if you're being honest and your brother really is missing, maybe you should check the toys first. Sometimes kids can be found there when they've run off."
"My brother didn't 'run off'," Dean corrected her; knowing even if the kid had run off, he wouldn't be hiding out in the toy section of the store.
The woman stared at him as the man continued to mop.
Dean sighed and then turned away from the employees. "Thanks," he called over his shoulder – for nothing – and began walking down the aisles again; his eyes scanning for any sign of his brother...or for a guy that looked like himself.
...which was going to be freaky as hell if it was true – to see yourself outside of yourself.
The thought made Dean's stomach twist into an even tighter knot; the thought that some supernatural creature had used his likeness to get close to Sam and then snatch the kid.
Dean sighed – trying not to think about it – and continued searching the store; up and down the aisles as his mind still buzzed with possibilities; being so distracted that he ran into whoever was rounding the corner on the opposite end of the aisle.
"Whoa, son..." the elderly man warned, holding his arms out in a protective stance.
"Sorry," Dean automatically apologized and then blinked when he realized who was standing in front of him. "Aren't you the Walmart Greeter?"
The man snorted. "I prefer to be called Carl," he informed with a chuckle and tapped the nametag pinned to his blue vest. He paused, staring at Dean. "You're the kid with that other kid...the scrawny little guy with the floppy hair."
Dean arched an eyebrow; surprised – and a little unnerved – that everyone in this store seemed to know him and his brother.
Carl chuckled again. "Relax," he advised. "I'm the first line of defense for this place. People think I'm just there to greet them at the door, but that's just scratchin' the surface. It's part of my job to remember faces and to be able to recall who came in together in case there's shoplifting or something like that."
Dean sighed, not interested in this man's job description; but if Carl prided himself on being so observant...
"Have you seen my brother?"
Carl shook his head. "Not since the two of you came in the store earlier. Why? Did you lose him?"
Dean glared. "No."
Carl glanced around the aisle. "Well, he's not here."
"I know that," Dean snapped and then narrowed his eyes at Carl; because as long as Sam was missing, everyone was a suspect. "What are you doing here? Why are you at the back of the store? I thought your job was up front."
"It is," Carl agreed. "But my shift is over, and I was headed to the break room to clock out."
Dean nodded; because he guessed that made sense.
"Shouldn't you be heading home, too?" Carl asked in return. "After all, it's a school night..."
"Yeah," Dean answered distractedly; looking beyond Carl. "I just – "
" – have to find your brother," Carl finished and nodded knowingly when Dean's attention flickered back to him. "I can see the panic in your eyes, son," he explained and then paused. "Where did you see him last?"
Dean stared at Carl; hesitant to share details about Sam but realizing he needed help if he was going to find his brother. "School supplies. I left him there maybe ten minutes...and then when I came back..."
Carl nodded, not needing Dean to explain further. "It doesn't take long for sick bastards to snatch children and then do god-knows-what to them for their own kicks," he commented and shook his head in disgust.
Dean seemed to pale at that reminder.
"Sorry," Carl apologized at Dean's expression. "I know you probably didn't need to hear that. But I'm just saying...we need to find your brother before something else happens to him."
Dean nodded; already knowing that. "I've searched the entire store at least twice."
Carl nodded. "Well, the only way we're gonna know for sure what happened to the kid is if we review the security tapes." He pointed to the ceiling. "After all, Big Brother's always watching."
Dean looked up as well and snorted disgustedly at the irony – because if he had fulfilled his role as a big brother and had been watching Sam, none of this would've happened.
"Can't think like that," Carl advised, seeming to read Dean's thoughts. "What's done is done. And although it sucks, we gotta deal with what we got." He paused. "And it sounds like what we got is a missing kid."
Dean nodded; strangely calmed by the old man standing in front of him and feeling a connection. "So how do we access the security tapes?"
"Easy," Carl replied. "My son works security here...and his girlfriend is the manager."
"Nice," Dean praised; pleased that at least something seemed to be finally going right in this situation.
Because if whoever took Sam was indeed a shifter, the camera would show it – that classic retinal flare in a shifter's eyes when caught on film – and Dean would know what he was up against; would know how to track it and kill it and get his brother back.
But if it was human...
Dean sighed; finding that he actually hoped a shifter had taken Sam rather than a person.
Because supernatural creatures were predictable if you knew which kind you were dealing with; but people...they were fucking crazy.
Dean sighed again and glanced at Carl. "Let's go find your son, so we can see those security tapes."