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Suffer the Children (and the Geeks) 3/10

June 18th, 2007 (10:04 am)

Title:  Suffer the Children (and the Geeks) 3/10

A/N: The plot picks up a bit more in this part. All notes and disclaimers in part one :)

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Dean studied the scene before him.

He'd just spent the last fifteen minutes engaging all the museum staff he could on a possible reason why Ethan may have gotten sick. What he told them had mostly been the truth, just hyped up with colorful descriptions, in a feigned attempt to be helpful while they tried to figure out what was wrong.

It hadn't been his most brilliant distraction ever, but it had certainly done the trick. By the time he was done, Sam was nowhere to be seen, and no one was even aware of his absence.

By now, the crowd was thinning with the excitement of the ambulance forgotten. The other visitors had gone home, and the only action on the pavilion was daily through-traffic and Grace's small group of children.

The museum employees were gathered by the doors, talking quietly. Dr. Huber looked distressed, and kept talking to a security guard. Dean knew the man was beside himself, hardly at all capable of forming a purposeful response to the incident. This was a small operation and the staff was completely out of their element.

Even the guards would be elementary to deal with. Despite the badges and the weapons clasped to their belts, he could tell they were more there to tell little kids not to touch the glass than to deal with actual issues. The group of them, all four, were huddled just outside the door, talking amongst themselves and nodding to Dr. Huber.

Sam wouldn't get caught—not just because these guys were simplistic in their sense of security, but because Sam was good. Besides, he consoled himself, if Sam did need something, the cell phone would do the trick.

Ten minutes, twenty tops, and the kids would be safe, Sam would be back to sulking by his side, and Dean could accept Grace's praise as the hero.

The thought made him smile.

Glancing at Grace, his grin widened in anticipation. Given how nervous she was now, he did not doubt she would be ready for the taking when Sam got back with the kids. Now he just needed to lay some groundwork.

Sauntering, he made his way back to Grace, who was distantly facilitating some game of tag with her students. She smiled slightly as he approached.

"You doing okay?" he asked, nodding absently to the running and laughing children.

"They haven't noticed anything yet," she said, smiling out at them. "That's about the most I can ask for."

Dean nodded, feigning seriousness. "They're lucky to have you."

"They'd be lucky if I'd kept them all in the classroom today," she said.

"It's good for kids to get out, to experience life."

She raised her eyebrows at him. "I'm not entirely sure this counts as an educational experience," she said. "I just want to get them home."

Dean forced an awkward grin. "Right," he said, shoving his hands into his pockets. So much for flirtatious overtures. Clearly he was going to have to take a different approach with Grace. Perhaps he had misjudged the fragility of her emotional state. "I know this must be hard for you."

At this, she sighed. "I'm just ready for it to be over," she lamented.

"I think you're handling this great," he assured her.

She glanced his way, smiling briefly. "Really?"

"Totally," Dean enthused, seeing an opening once again.

"It's all for the kids," she said.

Dean nodded seriously. "I...admire your dedication."

Her smile was sincere, maybe surprised. "Thank you so much," she told him. "That's exactly what I needed to hear."

Barely containing his excitement, Dean opened his mouth to speak, but Grace cut him off.

"Now I feel like I can go back and be everything for those kids. They're my focus. No more of this self-pity. They need me."

Dean gaped a little, mouth working. "Well, um--"

"Thanks," she said, flashing a brilliant smile at him before she turned and walked back to the kids.

Watching her go, Dean's smile fell to a jaded grimace. "Yeah, sure, no problem," he griped.

He needed to hit on less responsible women next time. These ones with issues and baggage and a sense of duty--those were the ones he needed to leave for Sam.

-o-

Getting in was easy.

It always surprised Sam that they could get into well-guarded, well-watched areas without being noticed. And, sure, maybe there was a certain adrenaline rush from this kind of thing, but he was kind of tired of risking their lives and freedom in such blatant and trivial ways.

Not that saving lives is trivial
, he thought to himself, almost unconsciously countering Dean's argument, which sounded annoying and cocky in his head. But couldn't they try to be a little bit more subtle when they did it? Ways that didn't involve getting their faces on every security camera across the continental United States and parts of Canada? At least this wasn't a major museum--they might avoid immediate detection.

That thought made him laugh. It might avoid immediate detection. There was no guarantee someone wouldn't recognize them (police are supposed to be fairly observant, after all) and there was no promise that the feds wouldn't be breathing down their necks within hours, not days.

There wasn't time for that now, though. Now that he was in, there was the slight problem of knowing where to look. He knew finding any given exhibit wouldn't be a problem, but the problem would be finding five kids who were likely wandering around aimlessly. Because either the kids were still wandering away from the group or by this point they knew they needed to find their way back. Either way, it wasn't likely that they were being helpful and staying still.

Which meant he had nowhere to look and there was a strong likelihood that he'd have to wander around a fair amount before he found them.

And he didn't even want to consider the possibility that they weren't alone. Or that they could be terrified or, worse, hurt.

He forced himself to stop, to strategize, not just think. Where would the kids most likely go? What would be most interesting to them? Because wandering around the museum worried wouldn't really help him find the kids. It certainly wouldn't help him get out of there very quickly and let him get back to figuring out how to stop whatever homicidal entity had taken residence up in the jewel collection.

When he was a kid, he would have been drawn to the exhibits with lots of bells and whistles, the ones that were eye-catching. He'd accidentally lost his family countless times in libraries when an interesting book caught his attention and he would end up sprawled in a library aisle instead of traipsing behind his father.

So maybe the kids had been with the group and just got too fascinated by something to continue on. They could still be staring in wonder at an exhibit.

Or they could be more like Dean and purposefully found something else less educational to do. Like rearrange an innocuous display into something sexually suggestive. Or change the positions of the signs so that someone looking for the Ancient Egyptians wound up in front of a display on 20th Century American Entertainment.

He shook his head. I've been around Dean too long.

He sighed. There was no way to tell. All he could do was search every hallway and hope he got lucky.

Next time, he was so staying on the outside while Dean did the legwork.

-o-

Dean felt useless.

He wasn’t sure why he’d thought staying outside would be such a great idea at all. Because while Sam was inside, possibly in danger, flirting with Grace just wasn’t that much fun. He hadn't thought that part through very well. He'd just seen Grace's nice figure and wanted to stay and play.

Besides that, his only real job out here was to help Grace stay calm. The only thing Grace wanted help with was keeping the kids calm.

And the kids wanted to play duck-duck-goose.

Dean hated duck-duck-goose.

He’d played it enough as a kid. Sam had adored it when he first learned it. The kid would go around the living room playing it with his dad and brother, patting them on the head (when he could reach it), going endlessly in circles, saying, "Duck…duck…duck…"

By the time he’d say goose, Dean had forgotten that they were playing.

Not that their dad ever really played. Their father condescended to let Sam tap him on the head, but the only person who ever got to be the goose was Dean.

And Sam had been a freakishly fast kid. Dean wasn’t slow, but Sam was tiny and wiry at that age, and could fly easily around the edges of the room, escaping Dean’s grasp even when he was trying to catch him.

In addition to that, Sam had no concept of when to stop playing a game. The kid had no problem with repetition and wanted to play it again and again and again.... Dean played it so often he had started playing it in his sleep.

He loved Sam and all, but even the best big brothers had their limits.

He’d never been happier than the day Sam learned how to play four square, and the days of duck-duck-goose were left behind. He’d vowed never to play it again. A vow he’d had no trouble upholding…

Until now.

Now he was seated, cross-legged in the pavilion, surrounded by little kids. The little girl walking around the outside had curly brown hair and she moved slowly, shyly, calling her little friends ducks.

Dean wasn’t sure how he knew, but he could see it in her eyes. The way she kept looking at him and giggling. When her small hand came down on his head, she paused, before blurting out, "Goose!"

At this, the children squealed, delighted, and the girl scampered around the circle.

Dean was really too big for this game.

Standing took time, and it took effort not to squash the little kids next to him. By the time he was standing and had his equilibrium, the little girl was giggling ¾ of the circle away from him.

His legs were long, but she had the distance, and by the time he got to where she had been, she had crashed breathlessly into his spot.

The kids were laughing. Even Grace’s eyes were bright. "Uh oh, Dean, looks like you’re it," she said, her voice in that singsong voice teachers had for little kids.

Great. Dean often liked being the center of the attention, being the it guy, but he wasn’t sure this was the kind of attention he was interested in.

His smile was forced and he wanted a way out, any way out, but saw none. Just 12 little faces waiting for him to squat his way around the circle and duck-duck-goose them.

Yep. No way out. Knees bent, he stuck his hand on the little boy who had been sitting next to him, promptly saying, "Duck..."

He did the same to the little blonde girl, the Asian boy, the plump redheaded boy, and the tomboy brunette, before finally reaching Grace's coif. Letting his hand linger, he couldn't help but grin, as he ground out, "Goose."

He took off in a sprint as the kids squealed and he heard the sound of Grace's footfalls on the pavement behind him.

Glancing back, she was laughing, running in a mock gesture of trying to catch him, and he couldn't help but think maybe he'd underestimated this game after all.

-o-

Sam was halfway through the African exhibit and headed toward the History of China when he got lucky.

He heard them before he saw them. Small voices, speaking in rushed whispers and failing miserably at being quiet.

"Hey!" he called. "Hey!"

This effectively silenced them and when he turned the corner, he found them, staring up at him, paused in the center of the hallway.

"Who are you?" one of them asked.

There were five of them, just like Grace had said. Two girls and three boys. All in matching white button up shirts and red plaid ties. The little girls wore skirts and the three boys wore trousers, each adorned in white tennis shoes.

They were staring at him. Five sets of small eyes, wide and focused in fear and curiosity. "What's going on?" one of the girls finally asked. She was tanned skinned, probably Hispanic, her dark black hair pulled back in a short ponytail. She was clutching her backpack straps with an unforgiving grip and her tone suggested suspicion.

Beside her, a little blonde girl with curly locks falling neatly down her back seemed to tremble, ducking behind the first girl, nearly dwarfed by the other girl's backpack. "I don't know if you should talk to strangers," she whispered, trying to be discrete, but failing miserably. Her blue eyes took Sam in with something akin to fear.

Sam tried to smile, holding his arms out simply. "Look, I'm just here to get you guys out of here. Ms. Young sent me."

"How do we know you didn't kidnap her!" one of the boys accused, hazel eyes shining up from behind a mop of brown hair. He was standing protectively next to the smallest of all the children, a little boy who looked vaguely similar to him--brothers, from the looks of it. All Sam had to see was the way they stood side by side and he knew it immediately. The younger one's mop of brown hair was even more unruly and he seemed to be nearly toppled over his with book bag.

This time Sam did smile, with a patience and softness that he hoped was disarming. "They're evacuating the building," Sam explained. "We need to get you out of here."

The girl in front frowned a little, her forehead creasing with thought. "Is that why all the lights were flashing?" she asked.

Thankful for the opening, Sam nodded earnestly. "Yeah, and that's why we need to go." He tried to remain calm, but time was working against them and he needed to get these kids out. Now.

The little blonde girl's eyes became as wide as saucers. "Is something bad going to happen? Are we going to die?" her voice hitched with sincere alarm.

The last boy, the tallest of the bunch, though still as skinny as a beanstalk, looked suddenly fascinated. "Are we under attack by terrorists?" he asked, sounding oddly excited at the prospect.

The blonde wailed at this. "I don't want to die!" she yelped.

The older brother seemed to pull the younger even closer.

"No, no, no," Sam said quickly. "Look, no, listen to me."

But it was a lost cause. The blonde was crying now and the little brother was whispering to the older while the African American boy started making exploding noises and seemed to be envisioning war scenes.

It was the first girl who silenced them. "Guys, come on," she said. "Let him explain." Her voice was so reasonable, so emphatic, that they were all silenced, save the blonde's sniffling.

"It's no big deal. Something just tripped an alarm," Sam explained, inordinately grateful for the girl's intervention. "We're going to meet up with Ms. Young and the rest of your class outside, okay?"

The kids seemed to be considering this, their suspicions and fears hinging tenuously. Then the first girl nodded. "Okay," she said. "Can you get us out of here though? We kind of got lost. Lara had to go to the bathroom." She rolled her eyes at that.

Lara, for her part, forgot her fears and looked indignant, her delicate chin pointing in the air. "I really had to go."

"And Liam wanted to look at the dinosaurs longer," the older brother said with a nod to the younger. "He really likes the dinosaurs."

"Dude, did you see the collection of guns here?" the other boy asked.

Sam took a breath and closed his eyes. "You guys ready?" he prompted. They had wasted enough time. He just had to get them back to the front of the building. That was all. It couldn't be that hard.

In his head, he mapped out the museum, trying to think of the best exit. Luckily, the Jewels of the East exhibit was located on the far end, a good distance from their current location. They wouldn't have to pass it to get out, and Sam could only hope that the range of the attacks had to be contained. A few long hallways and they would be out the side door with no one knowing anything.

They all nodded, blinking up at him with all the trust and faith in the world and Sam felt himself freezing momentarily. It seemed, suddenly, like such a huge responsibility--he didn't even know these children, he was just a stranger to them, but he had to get this job done.

Dean was counting on him, Grace was counting on him. Five (well, four, he thought looking at the brothers) sets of parents were counting on him. He wondered briefly if this was how Dean had felt when he was younger, always responsible for him.

He had a twinge of sudden sympathy for his brother. Protecting strangers was nothing like protecting family. He knew that much. And if he felt this concerned with five kids he'd never met before, he could only imagine what it had been like for Dean.

"Okay, follow me," he said, trying to move them toward the door.

"Wait," the blonde girl said suddenly. "We're not supposed to go with strangers."

Sam contained the urge to roll his eyes. "My name's Sam."

"Sam what?"

"Winchester."

"Mr. Winchester?" she confirmed.

Sam smiled. "See? Now we're not strangers."

The first girl rolled her eyes at the triviality of the exchange. "Can we go now, please?"

Sam nodded eagerly.

"But aren't we supposed to hold hands?" Lara asked. "Ms. Young makes us hold hands when we're walking over great distances."

She recited it with careful precision and Sam could tell she didn't know what a great distance was. "Fine," he said. He reached his hand out to the first girl who looked up at him curiously. "You ready?"

She grasped his hand, her small fingers lost in his. Lara eagerly slipped her hand into the girl's other one and deigned to allow the older brother to take her other hand. Liam clung fiercely to his older brother's hand, and the African American boy took up the rear.

Sam had to stoop to make it work, and it made him walk slower than he wanted to. From memory, he weaved them through the exhibits. As they made their way to the long hallway out, the lights flickered.

Sam's heart rate skyrocketed.

"Come on," he coaxed. "Let's hurry."

The children seemed to respond, their little legs working to keep up with his long strides.

Then the lights flickered again, longer now, more pronounced. Then he heard the soft rushing of voices buzzing in the stillness.

"What's going on?" Lara wailed.

It was the jewel. It must have known. He didn't know how, he didn't know why, but it was upping the ante. If it was just him, that was one thing, but he had to get the kids out of here.

It was pretty clear that whatever entity was working through the jewel, though, had other plans.

The lights blinked off entirely, plunging the corridor into an eerie dusk, and suddenly the security doors began shutting automatically at the end of the hall. The place was going on lockdown.

Sam was running now, pushing the kids ahead of him in desperation. He hoisted Lara into one arm and Liam into the other, carrying their squirming bodies and he urged the kids to the exit.

He could see the doors in front of them closing—a thick set of double doors, swinging slowly shut, so slow it seemed to be mocking him.

They'd never make it in time.

Despite his load, he reached it first, just in time to have it shut in his face, sealing with a resounding click. He pounded on it, rammed himself into it, the small boy at his side yelping in displeasure at being used as a battering ram.

He let the boy down, Lara too, and pounded in earnest at the door, trying the handle repeatedly.

There was no give. He knew without trying that it was bullet proof and that the lock would not be picked. It was a security default, and he knew that even with access to the computer systems, it probably wouldn't be opened. Because the problem probably wasn't the security system.

It was the jewel.

And now he was locked in there with it, with a museum full of potentially deadly displays, and five little kids.

He sighed, leaning his head against the door. This was definitely not good.

 Chapter Four

Comments

Posted by: batgurl10 (batgurl10)
Posted at: June 18th, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
hawt boys

I am SO psyched about seeing you post a good meaty loooong story! Cant wait till its all posted, so I can read it in one go... :-)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
regret

Well I'm posted about every other day, so hopefully you won't have to wait too long.

Thanks!

Posted by: Devan (ibelieveinsam)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 08:04 am (UTC)
Emo Sam Is Love Animated

This just keep getting better and better. I love Sam taking care of those kids. I liked that he saw himself and Dean in those two brothers, and automatically knew they were brothers. It was sweet how he thought of what Dean must have gone through while protecting him when he was protecting the kids. The ending had me on the edge of my seat and I was cheering on Sam hoping he'd make it to the exit and get the kids out before he got locked in. Now I'm dying for the next part :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
Sam redux

I always find it unfair that Dean has gotten all the good kid interaction. I'm sure Sam would be great with kids. Which was a lot of the prompt that got me to write this fic :)

But poor Sam in one of my fics? Is prone to disaster.

Thanks!

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 22nd, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
angst

I could really visualize that scene--Dean running around the circle, that grin of his on his face...

It's just such a DEAN thing to do.

And I'm partial to the kids, so I'm glad you like them okay. The request I was working from was to see Sam with kids, so I really tried to deliver :)

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