"Come on back and we'll see if you remember the simplest thing of all - how it is to be children, secure in belief and thus afraid of the dark" - Stephen King
Dean sighed as he jabbed the button on the TV remote at the screen, watching as the channels flashed by rapidly.
Sam was lying on his stomach beside his older brother, concentrating on the picture in his colouring-book he was scribbling over with a red Crayon.
"Dean, look!" the seven-year old demanded and shoved the book towards his sibling.
The older boy looked down at the smiling clown that Sam had coloured completely red. Dean smiled at his brother, "That's great!"
Sam beamed back, "I like clowns. They're funny."
Dean chuckled and turned his attention back to the television.
"Dean?" Sam asked quietly, "When's Daddy coming home?"
The eleven-year old sighed, "In a day or two, Sammy."
The younger boy frowned and stared down at his colouring-book. Dean reached over and wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulders.
"Why don't you watch some TV with me for a while?" Dean suggested and Sam pushed the book off the bed so that he could sidle closer to his sibling.
The older brother flipped through the channels, trying to find something his sibling would like, having little luck. It was well past Sam's bedtime and many of the regularly programmed cartoons were not longer on the air at this time of night.
Dean peered down at his brother and saw that Sam's eyes were closed and his breathing was slow and deep. Smiling, Dean took his arm back and lay down on the bed beside his brother, propping himself up on his elbows so he could continue to channel surf.
The eleven-year old set the remote down when he saw the title credits of a made-for-TV-movie come on. Checking once again to be certain that his brother was sleeping, Dean turned down the volume and turned his attention to the show.
Sam woke up warm and drowsy, annoyed that Dean had let him fall asleep. Blinking up at the television screen, Sam saw that his brother had stopped changing the channels and was watching something that looked like an adult show. Sam frowned. Daddy had told Dean that they could only watch cartoons because of the last 'grown-up' movie he'd let Sam watch. Sam shuddered as he recalled the scary underground worms that lived in the desert and ate people. Dean had thought it was hilarious but Sam didn't. He was sure the worms would be able to come up through the floor of their motel room and eat them. Not even the bed was safe.
Sam narrowed his eyes at the television screen. This show didn't really look much like the worm movie. He watched for a moment as a tall man with a ponytail and glasses talked to someone on the phone. Maybe this was one of those boring grown-up shows that Daddy sometimes watched.
"Hey, Sam," Dean's voice made him jump and he glared at his older brother.
"Can we watch cartoons?" Sam asked as he stared at the TV from the corner of his eye. Now there was a boy about his own age wearing a yellow rain coat talking to an older boy wearing stripped pajamas and lying in bed.
"Sorry Sammy," Dean apologized, not really looking sorry at all, "There's nothing on right now."
Sam frowned. Dean could find some cartoons to watch if he wanted to.
"Why don't you watch this with me for a little bit," Dean nudged Sam's shoulder playfully, "There's a clown in it."
"Okay," Sam agreed, still slightly unsure of the show but he trusted his brother. Snuggling close to Dean's side, Sam smiled as he watched the older boy on the TV help his sibling make a boat out of newspaper.
"Dean? Can we do that?" Sam asked, excited as he watched little George Denbrough run along the sidewalk, following his boat as it floated along the water at the edge of the road.
"Sure Sammy," Dean shrugged, "As soon as spring starts."
Sam smiled happily, thinking about the cold November snow piling up outside their motel room.
Sam tensed with worry as George's toy boat was sucked down into the gutter.
"Oh no," the seven-year old whispered and his brother hugged him.
"Don't worry, Sammy," Dean consoled, "I'm sure his big brother will make him a new one."
Sam nodded and watched as George went down on his hands and knees, peering sadly into the sewer grate.
Go home, Sam thought, Bill will make you a new boat.
Both George Denbrough and Sam Winchester startled when a clown with a white face, a big red nose and busy red hair appeared in the sewer.
Dean chuckled and patted Sam on the back, his younger brother giving him a small smile in return.
"Is that clown going to give his boat back?" Sam asked his brother and Dean lifted one shoulder.
"Dunno, Sammy," Dean muttered distractedly, "I'm trying to watch…"
Sam scowled but turned back to the TV. Pennywise didn't seem like a bad person. He was going to give George's boat back.
Sam raised an eyebrow when Pennywise informed the little boy that there was cotton candy and rides and lots of surprises down in the sewer. Sam had never been to a carnival or a fair before but he knew that those places had candy and games and rides… could a carnival fit in the sewer?
Sam screamed when Pennywise's smile turned to a frown and he opened his mouth to reveal sharp teeth. The clown grabbed George's hand and pulled him into the storm drain. Sam closed his eyes and put his hands over his ears, shaking and he started to cry like a baby.
Dean should have known. He should not have let his brother watch the movie. Sam's high-pitched wail startled him from the movie- Dean already shocked to see the clown's vampire-like teeth and gaping, hungry mouth- and he fumbled stupidly with the remote for one long minute before finally pressing the OFF button.
"Sammy! It's okay," Dean grabbed his terrified sibling and hugged him to his chest, "It's just a movie, buddy."
Dean carded his hand through his brother's dark, wavy hair and cursed himself for being such an idiot.
"You're okay, Sammy," Dean cooed, hoping that Sam would calm down.
"Why'd he do that, Dean?" Sam asked through his tears, "Why'd that clown do that?"
Dean bit his lip, "I don't know, Sammy."
"I thought clowns were nice," Sam wailed, inconsolable. Dean knew- hoped- that part of Sam's reaction was just from lack of sleep and that he hadn't just traumatized the kid for life.
"They are, Sammy," Dean tried to reassure his brother; "They're the good guys."
The little boy shook his head, "Nuh uh…"
"Sam, you know that stuff's not real, right?" Dean pleaded, "They just make up that to scare you."
Sam sniffed and wiped the sleeve of his pajama shirt over his runny nose, "Promise?"
Dean smiled, "I promise you. Clowns are not scary at all."
Sam narrowed his eyes at the older boy as if he didn't believe him.
"Look, you like Ronald McDonald, right?" Dean asked and Sam nodded.
"Is he scary?" Dean prompted.
"No," Sam admitted, "He makes good burgers."
Dean smiled, relieved, "See? They aren't bad… it was just some dumb movie."
Sam nodded and yawned widely.
"Let's get you to bed," Dean said gently. Dean picked his brother up and deposited him in the second bed, pulling the duvet up to Sam's chin and kissing him on the forehead as soon as the kid was settled.
"Goodnight Sammy," Dean whispered.
"G'night De," Sam mumbled back, already half-asleep.
Dean sat down on the edge of his own bed and slumped foreword. He felt bad for scaring Sam but he was sure he'd get over it eventually… besides, there were a lot more terrifying things out there than clowns. Turning off the lights, Dean crawled into his own bed and closed his eyes, his breathing soon becoming slow and steady with sleep.
John peered at his youngest child in the rearview mirror. Sam looked tired and wondered why. Maybe Dean was letting him stay up later than he should; John thought and glanced at his oldest son from the corner of his eye.
Dean was staring out the window, his chin propped up on the heel of his hand.
John shrugged. Sam would always sleep while they drove if he wanted to.
The eldest Winchester's stomach gave a loud growl and John checked his watch. It was nearly noon and they hadn't eaten since breakfast hours before.
"Are you boys getting hungry?" the father asked and both sons perked up a little bit.
"Yeah," Dean said, "Where are we going?"
John quickly glanced at the sign indicating a rest area was coming up and shrugged, "There's a McDonalds not far from here."
"Great," Dean exclaimed excitedly. He loved McDonalds. They had the best cheeseburgers.
"O-okay," Sam answered somewhat hesitantly.
John frowned, "You feeling alright, buddy?"
Sam nodded, "Yes, Daddy."
John shrugged. Sam was clearly tired so his father didn't think anymore about it. Besides, he was used to his youngest being stubborn and picky when it came to food. Sam probably just didn't want to eat at the restaurant.
"I'll get you a Happy Meal, okay?" John told his youngest and Sam nodded.
Sam held his father's hand tightly as the small family crossed the busy parking lot and headed towards the low, grey-stone building.
He told himself to stop being a baby; only babies were afraid of things like clowns and he definitely wasn't one, he was seven-years old!
Once they were inside, Sam relaxed a little. There were tons of people here. There was nothing to be scared of.
"I'll get the food," John told the boys, "Dean, why don't you find us a seat?"
"Okay, c'mon Sammy," Sam let go of his father's hand and reached out for his brother.
Dean found them a table close to McDonald's. The beige plastic seats were hard and kind of sticky as if someone had spilled soda and hadn't cleaned up. The faux grey granite tabletop had crumbs on it. Dean quickly swiped a hand across the table, brushing the offending bits onto the tiled floor and smiled at his brother sitting beside him.
Sam stared at the people sitting around them; there were a lot of kids his own age here and he saw some of them playing in a small group a few feet away from the group of tables.
"Dean? Can I go play?" Sam asked, pouting his lower lip a little bit.
Dean swept his gaze across the playing children and nodded, "Just stay where I can see you, okay?"
"Yeah!" Sam jumped off his seat and ran to the other kids.
"Hi, I'm Sam," he shouted and a chorus of names- Danny, Anne, Trevor, Ethan, Wanda and Brian- were given in return.
The other children welcomed Sam eagerly and in no time at all they were chasing one another around in a loud, riotous game of 'tag'.
Every so often, Sam glanced up to see Dean watching him. He'd smile and wave at his big brother and Dean would do the same.
Sam turned his attention away from his sibling when he heard his new friends screech happily and flock to a clown who looked exactly like Ronald McDonald. Sam hesitated for a moment but then followed the others toward the man.
Standing at the rear of the group, Sam smiled shyly up at the clown. Ronald McDonald grinned and waved his fingers at him.
While the other kids chattered and laughed with the fast-food mascot, Sam remained quiet and watchful.
Soon, one by one, Sam's friends were called away by their parents to eat their lunch or leave the rest area and the youngest Winchester was alone with the clown.
Ronald McDonald crouched down in front of Sam.
"Hello there," he said in a friendly manner and Sam took a cautious step back.
"Hi," Sam replied politely. He glanced back to his brother but frowned when he saw that the table was abandoned. Maybe Dean went to go help Dad or went to the bathroom.
"What's your name?" Ronald asked.
Sam wasn't sure if he should tell the clown. He decided that it wouldn't hurt him if he lied.
"Billy," Sam answered, his gaze traveling back to the table, searching for his brother.
The clown chuckled, "I guess you already know who I am, don't you?"
"Hey Billy?" Ronald asked, moving slightly closer to Sam. The boy didn't notice though, too focused on trying to catch sight of his family.
"Yeah?" Sam didn't even look at the man. He craned his neck to peer at the lineup in front of the McDonald's but couldn't see his father or brother.
"Do you like balloons?"
Sam shrugged and turned to Ronald, "I guess."
"You guess?! Well, if you come with me, I'll change your mind," the clown suggested.
"I don't know," Sam replied quickly, "I should ask my Daddy."
Ronald placed his yellow-gloved hands on his hips.
"You're in luck," he smiled widely, "I already talked to your Daddy and he said it was okay."
Sam still was uncertain. He wasn't completely sure about clowns. But Dean had said that the bad clown in the movie wasn't real, that clowns were the good guys.
"Okay," Sam smiled, "But we have to be quick so Daddy and Dean don't worry."
Ronald grinned and stood up, reaching down to take Sam's hand.
1. I don't own Supernatural, Stephen King's It, or McDonald's restaurants.
2. Please leave a review. I'd love to hear from you.