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Tongues of Fire

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The cool Fall wind gently lifted Sam’s shaggy hair from his face and blew it back into his eyes. Not for the first time that evening, Sam pondered on the fact that he really should get a haircut. Maybe he could take Dean along too and save them going on two trips. It was always stressful getting Dean to sit still for a long period of time on any normal occasion, let alone forcing him to allow sharp pointy objects near his head; that was just a recipe for disaster. Hopefully if Dean saw how calmly Sam got his hair cut, it might settle him a little. Sam smiled ruefully as he remembered the time he himself had tried to trim Dean’s hair. Dean hadn’t noticed or cared about the finished result but the clip round the head that Sam had received from their father had squashed any thoughts he might have had of trying to repeat the job in the future.

Sam shivered a little in his thin jacket as he trudged onwards. He was taking his time today, not for leisure, but for the fact that he knew exactly where his big brother had gone and he had no need to rush around trying to find him like before. Those few incidents had left Sam on the verge of a meltdown and nearly hyperventilating until he stumbled upon his wayward brother. Dean hadn’t gone very far, nor anywhere new, as was his tendency to stay where he recognised and felt comfortable. The local park had become Dean’s escape destination, ever since he discovered how to work open the latch on their front door.

The heavy footfalls of Sam’s tattered sneakers were the only sounds in the early evening on an otherwise abandoned street. Most families would be settling down to begin dinner, or maybe getting ready for their evening plans. The Winchester’s could hardly be considered any normal family, which was why Sam found himself walking the streets in search of his missing brother and their father settled in for an evening of television and a bottle of Jack.

The wind was blowing in the wrong direction, which is why Sam didn’t immediately know anything was wrong at first as he neared the park. That quickly changed as soon as the wind did, and he tensed to the sound of shouting, when he realised where it was coming from. Quickening his pace, he hurried towards the source of the disturbance. As he neared, he sent up a silent prayer that he was overreacting as he was prone to do and all he would find would be a couple of kids playing a game of ball, whilst Dean sat at a safe distance watching. Sam knew he often got overly anxious over little things, but damn it he had every right to considering his past experiences. He had learned to be wary and expect the worst of situations, especially when his big brother was involved.
Finally, he rounded the corner of the block and came face to face with a sight that chilled him to the bone. On the swings sat Dean, which was where he was often found in the park, but the misplaced part of the scene was the group of teenagers surrounding him in a semi-circle. Sam internally groaned – he knew the boys from school and they were nothing but trouble. Dean looked fine, as Sam did a cursory glance at him, but the sly expressions on the youths faces made Sam fasten to a run. The closer he got, the clearer the words the boys shouted become. He soon realised that they weren’t aggressive – yet – but more mocking. Sam felt his chest tighten and his hands clench into fists. He yanked open the wrought-iron gate and charged inside.
The gang looked up at the voice of the new arrival, but their shock didn’t last long.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the freak’s brother.” One of them sneered, sizing Sam up and down. Sam felt his blood boil and he marched to the edge of the group.
“What the hell are you guys playing at? Leave my brother alone!” Sam spat, drawing himself up to his full 6’4”. He didn’t often like to bring attention to his height, instead preferring to slouch down, round his shoulders and bow his head. In situations like this, however, he felt endlessly grateful that he always found himself head and shoulders above other men.

The widening of the brute’s eyes told him that he was caught off guard by the suddenly intimidating stature Sam held, whilst the others in the group shifted uneasily. It was their movement that seemed to force the boy out of his shock and he visibly shook himself before curling his lip again.

“What do ya mean, Sammy? We were only chatting. Isn’t that right, Dean-o?”
He laughed loudly, and nudged the boy sitting on the swings in front of him. Sam bristled at the action and turned his attention onto his brother. Dean looked unharmed, of which Sam was eternally grateful, but he couldn’t shake off his feeling of dread. Dean had one hand wrapped around the thin links of the swing’s chain and with his other he held his doll tightly to his chest. He had loudly laughed along with the boy when he’d nudged him, but Sam could see that Dean didn’t understand what was funny. His eyes remained too blank and his mouth slightly slack.

“Look, guys, why don’t you give it a rest, hey? I’m sure you’ve got better places to be than hanging round here.” Sam knew trying to calm the situation was being too optimistic, but he desperately wanted to just take Dean and leave. As expected, things never went easily for the Winchesters.

“Aw, you tryin’ get rid of us, Sammy-boy? We were just having a little bit of fun! Look, Dean’s enjoying himself!”
As he said those last words, he grasped hold of Dean’s hand holding the swing’s chain and waggled it about in the air. Caught off guard by the sudden grip, Dean let out a low whimper. All it took was that single noise to spur Sam into action, consequences be damned.

“Get your hands off of him! Leave him alone or I’ll-”
It seemed that was all the bullies had been waiting for too because the words had barely left Sam’s lips before he felt the air knocked out of him.
“Or you’ll what, Winchester? You threatening us?”

The ringleader drew back his fist again and slammed it into Sam’s stomach for a second time. Sam felt muscled arms grip his and drag them behind his back. Before he knew it, he was pinned to the ground and a kick caught him in the ribs. A fist pounded into his face and then all he knew was a haze of blinding pain.
The actual attack didn’t last for that long and the gang soon become bored of the easy target. Despite Sam’s height, he had next to no muscle and no fighting experience whatsoever. The empty threat he had thrown at them had been said in the heat of the moment and with enough hope that he wouldn’t have to see through with it. He should have known not to aggravate the boys, but the sound they had forced out of Dean had left him with no choice. Now, as he lay there, he knew what an idiot he had been. The gang might have thrown out a few more insults or snide comments, but if he had left well enough alone, then they might have gone without the beat down he had just received. The self-loathing he felt was pushed aside, however, when he became awake of the keening coming from his left. Sam gingerly raised himself onto his elbows, gritting his teeth against the onslaught of pain that erupted at the movement.

“Sammy! Sammy hurt!”

Sam tensed at the pain he heard in Dean’s voice. He sounded so lost and young, so scared and it was that notion that spurred Sam to get up faster.
“Dean? Are you hurt? Did they hurt you?” Sam rasped out, his jaw aching. He could already feel it beginning to swell and he only hoped that nothing was broken.
“Baby Sammy hurt!” Dean wailed again, his voice shaking and rough.

Sam forced himself to open his eyes fully, fighting against the tenderness of his eyelids. He knew without a doubt that he’d have two spectacular black eyes tomorrow, but for now he just wanted to make sure that his brother was okay. He crawled over to his side and began patting him down gently.
“Are you hurt, Dean? You need to tell me if they touched you.”
Dean turned big green eyes to look at him and Sam watched with a lump in his throat when big fat tears rolled down his flushed cheeks.
“Baby Sammy hurt!” Dean repeated. “Sammy hurt bad!”

Sam smiled weakly when he realised that Dean wasn’t injured. If he was, he would be making a bigger fuss and not worrying so much over his stupid doll. Although his brother was clearly upset, Sam was glad that the doll had received the brunt of the bullies attention, rather than Dean himself.
“Yeah, Dean, he did get a bit caught up in it all, didn’t he?” Sam gently raised his arms and touched the centre of Dean’s crossed arms, where he could just make out a dirty lump.
“Will you let me have a look at him, Dean? I can make him feel better and patch him up for you.”

Dean’s breath hitched in his chest and he stared warily at Sam’s outstretched hands. He then lowered his eyes to where his own were clutched and slowly released his iron-grip.
“Help Sammy?” He sniffed, opening his arms fully so that Sam could see properly. “Make Baby Sammy better?”

“Yeah, Dean. We’ll make Sammy better. Why don’t you give Baby Sammy to me and then we’ll get out of here, hey?”
Dean nodded slowly and then extended his arms towards Sam and thrust the bundle into his hands. Sam resisted the urge to flinch when his brother’s hands brushed the tender spot on his ribs. He accepted the doll and looked down at it briefly. As Dean had said, it was ‘injured’. The soft body had clearly been trodden on and was coated in dust and muck. The left arm was ripped nearly clean off and was only hanging by a few threads. Sam swallowed loudly and closed his eyes. Never had he felt such anger directed at anybody else before and he tried hard to push down his emotions. Dean needed him to keep a clear head and to remain calm.
“He’ll be fine, Dean! We’ll have to give him lots of cuddles and special kisses and then he’ll be as good as new.”
Dean rubbed the back of his hand underneath his nose and sniffed loudly.
“All better?”
Sam nodded and smiled reassuringly. “Yeah, Dean. Sammy will feel better in no time.”
As he helped Dean rise and begin to make their way back home, he wished that he could say the same about the doll’s namesake.