Six: A Very Supernatural Toy Story
Sam Winchester closed his eyes against the harsh light
cast by the setting winter sun and let his head fall
on the back of the passenger seat. The day had been
crisp and almost perfect for the time of year. Dean
had been complaining constantly for the last hundred
miles and Sam was on the verge of fratricide. He knew
Dean didn’t have particularly good memories of
this time of year but he couldn’t believe it had
all been so bad. He could take the griping and the whining,
he’d had plenty of practice at it, but it was
beginning to grate on even his calm temperament.
When his brother passed the fourth comment about the
lack of a hunt in as many minutes, Sam finally snapped.
“Dude! Seriously, what is it with you today?”
Dean’s expression was, to be honest, comical.
The surprise on his face, coupled with badly disguised
innocent indignation was worthy of an Oscar, if not
a lifetime achievement award. He turned wide eyes to
Sam, eyebrows raised.
“What d’you mean?” he asked.
“You’ve done nothing but complain since
we got in the car. Six hours, Dean. Six hours of non-stop
grumbling. That’s coming close to a record, even
“I’m not grumbling. Ten year olds grumble,
Sam. I’m voicing an opinion.”
“I’ve heard your opinion, man. Over and
over and over. Would you just give it a rest now please?
You’re giving me a headache.”
Dean heaved a sigh and turned his attention back to
the road. “Drama queen,” he huffed, lapsing
into a sulky silence.
“You’re sulking and I’m the drama
“I’m not sulking either, Sam. I’m…
bored,” he admitted after a few minutes silence.
“I need to be doing something.”
If Sam was surprised, he didn’t let it show. He
had suspected something along those lines but to hear
Dean actually voice it gave him a petty sense of satisfaction.
He couldn’t help the smile that crept onto his
“It’s Christmas, Dean. Peace and goodwill.
Remember that? Holiday season. Maybe we should just
kick back for a few days.” Sam paused, studying
Dean whilst wondering whether to finish his sentence.
“Maybe have a Christmas of our own?”
It was a hesitant question and Dean wasn’t sure
if Sam was expecting an answer or not. If truth be told,
he was unsettled. Christmas never really sat well with
him. It was an overhyped season full of hypocritical
sentiment he could live without. He couldn’t understand
the frenzy that swept over the majority of people, couldn’t
be doing with the plethora of cheap gifts, false goodwill
and forced merriment and he couldn’t bear to be
reminded of what he and Sam had missed out on as children.
As far as he was concerned, the only good things about
the season were eggnog and those cute Santa’s
Helpers outside department stores.
Looking back at Sam, Dean’s heart sank as he realized
yes, Sammy was waiting for an answer. It seemed it wasn’t
just a throw away comment, the kid actually looked like
he wanted a Christmas.
Mentally shaking himself down, he sighed. “We’ll
pull into the next motel,” he offered, hoping
he could fob Sam off long enough for him to forget the
whole holiday issue. “Get some rest.”
Sam had been around his brother long enough to know
when to push and when to let something slide. And he
knew when Dean was trying to change the subject. He
let his eyes drift back to the passing scenery, taking
pity on Dean by letting the matter drop. For now. He
closed his eyes and let the gentle purring of the engine
wash over him.
True to his word, the first motel they came to, Dean
turned off, the Impala coming to a graceful halt outside
the reception office which was garishly decorated with
multicolored fairy lights and a plastic tree in one
corner. Playing the big brother card, Dean sent Sam
in to register, unable to stomach the tackiness of the
The room they ended up with was small and hideously
decorated in a mauve fleur de lys design, but thankfully
no effort had been made to acknowledge the festive season.
Dean decided it was a room best not to wake in with
a hangover. In fact, it was a room best not dwelt in
for too long at all.
Flinging his duffel on the first bed, Dean made a beeline
for the bathroom, leaving Sam to explore what comforts
the room offered by himself. When he reappeared, Sam
was reclining on his bed, a variety of local tourist
information leaflets spread around him like leaves fallen
off a tree. Sam looked up at his brother with a mischievous
grin on his face, waving one particular leaflet at him.
“Look,” he grinned, “late night shopping.
We could check it out? If you’re, y’know,
“Will there be anything to kill?” Dean snatched
the offending literature out of Sam’s hand and
crushed it in one swift move, hurling it with deadly
accuracy into the trashcan in the corner of the room.
“Other than you.”
Sam simply picked up another leaflet, thrusting it at
Dean. “Well, if you don’t fancy shopping
we could always take the mystery tour round the town.
It leaves at 10am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Looks good
value for money.”
Dean glared and Sam raised his eyebrows in mock innocence.
“No? How about the annual Christmas gathering
round the tree in the market square? ‘Carols followed
by mince pies and mulled wine. Fun for all the family.’
We could walk it from here in about fifteen minutes…”
“Sam…” Dean’s growl would have
put the fear of God into most people, but Sam wasn’t
most people. He could hear the affection behind the
threat and in a bizarre way it felt good. Maybe stopping
here wasn’t going to be too bad. Maybe he could
persuade Dean to relax for a few days after all, enjoy
a little downtime.
It was a thought that Sam held on to as his head hit
the pillow and he sank into a peaceful sleep that night.
The coffee was black, wet and hot but that was about
all Dean could really say about it. He didn’t
demand a lot from his caffeine intake but he did like
a bit of taste to it. He slammed the mug back down on
the Formica surface of the table with enough force to
jolt some scalding liquid out of the container and onto
the paper Sam was currently engrossed in.
Whatever had captured Sam’s attention was obviously
so interesting not even Dean’s exaggerated sighing
and fidgeting were enough to draw his eyes away from
the paper and over to his brother. Finally, impatient
and restless, Dean flicked a teaspoon across the table,
making sure it careened into the middle of the page
Sam was looking at.
“Hey, Sammy. You still in there?”
“Mmm?” Sam’s eyes appeared over the
top of the page. “What?”
“What’cha got there? Must be fascinating.
You’ve been looking at it for hours.”
“Hardly hours, Dean. We’ve only been here
Dean waited for Sam to share but his brother’s
head had disappeared behind the broadsheet again and
seemed to be lost within the paper again.
“Seriously, dude. What’s so interesting
there? Is it a hunt?” Dean couldn’t contain
the excitement in his voice. Whenever Sam found a potential
hunt he went quiet for a while before indulging his
brother’s almost constant need to know. He was
pretty sure this was a case in point. It seemed to him
Sam was being deliberately offhand about his current
Sighing loudly, Sam slid the paper over to Dean, pointing
at the article which had had him so captivated. Picking
up his own coffee he sank back in his seat, watching
as Dean scanned the words in front of him, brow creasing
“What the hell’s this, Sammy?” he
queried. “A sob story for Christmas? ‘Local
toy shop faces bankruptcy.’ Hardly our kind of
thing.” He pushed the paper back disappointedly.
“I know,” Sam agreed. “I never said
there was. I just… It’s sad, y’know.
Someone puts all that effort into building a business
and then it fails. I mean, it’s a toy shop, Dean.
“And your point is?” Dean picked his cup
up, eyed it distrustfully and put it back down again.
“It’s just,” Sam paused, waving his
hand aimlessly in the air as though he could catch hold
of the right words, the exact phrase he was looking
for. “It’s Mortimer Westland, dude.”
Dean frowned and wracked his brain. The way the name
tripped off Sam’s tongue sounded as though it
ought to mean something to him. He rifled through the
catalogue of names he held in his head. Fellow hunters,
people they’d met along the way who had helped
or hindered them, people Dad had warned them about,
people to avoid at all costs. Nothing.
Watching Dean’s face, Sam suddenly realized Dean
had probably never heard of the man before. They had
been back together for so long now Sam sometimes forgot
there were four whole years of experiences and knowledge
they hadn’t shared. Every so often it crept up
on him and hit him between the eyes like a sack of potatoes.
Dean hadn’t been at his side in Stanford, hadn’t
been to the parties with him, hadn’t heard him
expand on his latest theories for essays and theses,
hadn’t learned about things like Mortimer Westland
“He was a highly respected business man out in
New York. Made Vice President of Mayla Industries when
he was just twenty-seven. One of the most successful
businessmen of his generation. If anyone should be able
to make it in business, it’s him.”
“Wow!” Dean stared up at his brother, although
Sam wasn’t sure if the look on his face was amazement
or bewilderment. “You are just a font of…something.
How the hell do you know all this stuff?”
“What do you think I did at Stanford, Dean?”
Dean shrugged. “Not what I’d have done,”
he retorted, lost momentarily in dreams of student bars
and sorority parties.
“Dude! Focus!” Sam snapped, although the
smile on his face belied the tone of voice. “I
did a paper on him in my second year there. He’s
an amazing man, Dean. He had a really hard childhood,
had next to nothing, and yet he rose up through the
ranks of industry relying on nothing but his own determination
and intelligence. He was the original ‘rags to
riches’ poster boy. Ruthless and hardheaded in
the boardroom and a perfect gentleman everywhere else.”
Sam paused, turning the newspaper round to face him
again. He traced his finger along the headline. “I
just don’t understand how someone like him can
fail at running something as simple as a toy shop. I
mean, he’s got it all – business acumen,
financial understanding, people skills – everything.
If he can’t make it…” Sam paused,
seeing his brother’s eyes glazing over. “All
I’m saying is…”
“You’re a bleeding heart, you know that?
So, some high flyer can’t make it out in the real
world. So what? It’s one of those things, Sam.
What’s the big deal?”
“No, you’re right Dean. There’s no
big deal here. Man’s life’s falling apart
at Christmas and all is right with the world.”
“Geez – you can be so dramatic, you know
that?” Dean shook his head in exasperation. “If
it’ll make you happy, let’s go meet this
childhood hero of yours. It’s not like we’ve
got anything better to do.” He threw down a couple
of bills on the table and slid along the bench seat
till he could stand unhindered by the table. Casting
one last look at the now stone cold coffee, he couldn’t
resist having the last word. “If you’re
really good, I might even buy you a present.”
Westland’s Toy Shop was even more idyllic than
Sam could have imagined. A small, one roomed shop, it
could have been lifted straight from any one of the
seasonal greetings cards currently spilling off shelves
in every card shop, department store and gas station.
If Sam closed his eyes and relaxed for a minute he could
almost see Santa’s sleigh coming in to land on
the roof. It brought to mind boxes of chocolates and
snow sprinkled children skating across frozen ponds
in velvet coats and hats.
Every couple of minutes the bell above the shop door
rang across the street as another customer entered,
generally followed by a child or two clutching a brightly
colored package. Sam noted with interest the children
didn’t look especially happy and the family groups
leaving the store were, in the main, empty handed. While
the adults looked satisfied, their offspring appeared
crestfallen and the spirit of Christmas seemed to have
been left behind.
“Doesn’t look like a failing business to
me,” Dean grunted, still trying to work out how
they came to be sitting in the Impala, staking out a
“Yeah, but look at the kids though,” Sam
returned. “Nobody looks very happy.”
Dean snorted. “It’s Christmas, dude. They’re
shopping. Three days before Christmas. Who’d be
happy doing that?”
Holding back a heartfelt sigh, Sam turned to glare at
Dean but the sharp retort on the tip of his tongue died
when he saw the expression on his brother’s face.
He had expected the comment to be accompanied by a belligerent
stare, or at least an unspoken challenge to refute his
statement. He hadn’t expected Dean to be gazing
at the family group just leaving the store, the mother’s
arm around a small child of about four or five who was
in floods of tears. He hadn’t expected his brother’s
eyes to hold the sympathy they currently concealed.
If he didn’t know better, he almost would have
said Dean looked wistful.
He was just about to break the semi-awkward silence
when Dean saved him the trouble. “Do you remember
our Christmases, Sam?” he asked. “Remember
the god awful gifts we got each other?” He turned
to look at Sam, a slight smile turning the corners of
his mouth upward.
“I remember the Barbie doll,” he chuckled
and watched with some satisfaction as Dean’s face
“It was the best I could do,” Dean defended
himself. “And we did have fun with the baton,
“I remember you didn’t use it as a baton
for long. Who knew they worked just like light sabers!”
“Hey, you were asking for it!” Dean smiled
at the memory of chasing his eight-year-old brother
round yet another shoddy motel room armed with a sparkly
cheerleader’s baton. But the moment didn’t
last long as he remembered why Sam had ended up with
such girlie presents that year. Just another Christmas
Dad hadn’t made it back to the boys. And Sam wondered
why Dean reserved judgment on the festive season.
As if knowing what was running through his older brother’s
head, Sam turned away to the street, just as a man and
his two sons walked past them and on into the shop,
a hand laying casually on each boy’s back.
“He did make it some years, Dean. They weren’t
all bad.” He sat back, watching the man and his
boys through the panes of Westland’s shop and
the milling crowd. “And he did get you some awesome
presents when he was there.”
“Tools of the trade, Sammy. That’s all they
“Maybe. But you tell me you didn’t want
them. He knew what floated your boat, even then.”
“And you? You’re telling me you were really
that thrilled when he got you your first hunting knife?”
Sam paused. It wasn’t exactly a limited edition
of Lord of the Rings, but it was something his father
had put some thought into. The knife had been a perfect
fit in his hand, the handle smooth and warm to the touch,
the blade razor sharp, shining in the moonlight glinting
through the window that year. He had to admit it, he
had been a little bit thrilled with it. An acknowledgement
from Dad that he was ready to join his older brother
on the hunt in the New Year. [Maybe?]
“It wasn’t that bad, Dean. We just got a
bit…jaded…about the whole thing. I guess
it’s hard to believe in Santa when you know what’s
really out there.”
“Oh, you believed in him. Trust me. I remember.”
Dean slipped Sam a sideways look and smirked. “In
fact,” he teased, “I reckon you’d
still believe if I hadn’t told you the truth.”
“You are such a liar. If I believed, it was only
to stop you feeling hurt ’cause you’d been
“Found out? How could you ‘find me out,’
Sam? There were never any gifts around till Christmas
“Only because you didn’t steal them till
Christmas Eve. D’you really think I didn’t
know you snuck out every year? You didn’t exactly
hide your movements. I knew it was you.” Sam smiled
as memories long since buried made their way to the
forefront of his mind.
Dean looked hurt as he regarded his brother keenly.
“When did you stop believing then?” he questioned
quietly and Sam wondered how to answer tactfully. It
was quite possible, he suddenly realized, that Dean
had never worked out Sam knew what he was up to. Every
so often it hit him how easy it was at times to hurt
his older brother’s feelings over something so
far in the past.
“I was six, Dean,” he admitted softly. “I
just never let on. I didn’t want you to stop.
Didn’t want the magic to end.”
Dean swallowed hard. He had tried to keep Christmas
special for Sam for so long, tried to make sure he had
a childhood occasionally, even if it was just once a
year, and to find out his kid brother had known all
along, had been humoring him for years, was an unsettling
discovery and he wasn’t quite sure how he felt
In true Dean Winchester style, he decided to ignore
his emotions, to push past any hurt feelings and disappointments.
Casting one last look at Sam, he pushed open the door
of the Impala.
“C’mon,” he ordered. “Time’s
a wasting. Shop’ll be closing for the night soon.
If you want a present this year, I suggest you get your
ass in gear!”
It was just as Sam had imagined it to be. The brass
bell jangled merrily every time the door to the store
opened. It didn’t discriminate between those leaving
the shop and those entering, but sang its song regardless.
All his senses assaulted at once, Sam didn’t know
which one to give in to first. The shop smelt of cinnamon
and the heady scent of seasoned hardwood, sawdust and
varnish permeated his nostrils, as his eyes drank in
the sight of row upon row of exquisitely crafted wooden
toys. There were trains, cars, soldiers and fortresses
for the boys while for the girls there were shelves
stacked with dolls, picnic sets and a selection of fairy
castles and princess palaces. Every age group was catered
for, from sturdy baby rattles to sophisticated jewelry
boxes. Sam could easily picture children spending hours
scouring the shelves for the perfect toy.
The shop was buzzing. There was no other word for it.
As the brothers looked around them they could see no
obvious signs of a business on the verge of collapse.
Straight in front of the door, at the back of the shop,
was a counter with a cash till that looked as though
it came with the Ark, and behind it stood a middle aged
woman, smiling at her customers, making time to pass
a few words of conversation with every one of them.
Dean couldn't hear what was being said over the general
tumult in the store but he was rapidly losing interest
in the whole affair. He twisted his head round to where
his brother seemed to be rooted to the spot, gazing
at the store keeper. Dean hadn't noticed anything out
of the ordinary about the woman but it looked as though
Sam had spotted something of note.
Moving over to a shelf full of wooden puzzles, he fingered
the smooth pieces, admiring how each one fit so perfectly
with its neighbor, seamlessly joining together to form
the whole. Out of the corner of his eye, he observed
the woman passing a paper bag over to the latest customer.
He couldn't see anything suspicious about her. In fact
she was, quite possibly, the most unthreatening character
he had met in a very long time. But Dean was a Winchester,
raised a hunter, trained to trust no one but family,
taught to expect the unexpected and to never let his
guard down. So he watched her carefully, following her
hands as they moved effortlessly round the counter,
handling money and goods confidently.
Eventually he decided whatever had caught Sammy's attention
was beyond him and he shuffled surreptitiously toward
him. Nudging him none too gently with his elbow, Dean
nodded at the woman.
"Not really your type, is she?" He raised
his eyebrows suggestively. "Although if I'm wrong,
just say the word and I'm gone..."
Sam turned to his brother and cast a withering glare
in his direction. Dean lifted his hands in mock self
defense and smirked.
"If you must know," Sam began, "that's
Tessa Westland. Mortimer Westland's wife. They were
childhood sweethearts.” He broke off as the woman
in question smiled at the last paying customer in the
store and handed over a package wrapped in plain brown
Sam and Dean were now the only people in the showroom
and it was fairly obvious they weren’t there to
purchase anything. Regardless of the web of lies both
brothers could spin at the drop of hat, for some reason
neither was willing to fabricate a falsehood for being
in the shop. The woman threw them a worn smile and gestured
at the shelves surrounding them.
“Anything got your interest, boys?” she
enquired, although from her tone of voice it was clear
she already knew the answer.
Moving over to the counter, Sam cast a quick glance
at Dean over his shoulder. Dean gave an imperceptible
lift of one eyebrow and stood to one side, happy to
let Sam say or do whatever he needed to say or do so
they could get out of here.
“No, ma’am.” Sam was saying, almost
apologetically. “We saw the article in the paper
about the bankruptcy and, well, I recognized the name.”
“Westland?” Tessa looked surprised. “I
didn’t think we were that famous.” She smiled,
silently inviting Sam to continue.
“Oh, I um, I studied at Stanford for a while.
Your husband was one of our case studies and I remembered
the name. He's an amazing man - we all wanted to be
him. I just wanted to come see how things could possibly
have gone so wrong for him. From everything I learned…”
he trailed off as Tessa’s face fell and her hands
dropped to the counter in front of her.
“It was going well,” she confirmed, “until
about a month ago.” She laughed wryly, “Just
in time for the Christmas rush. Then things just started
to go wrong for us and now we’re a couple of days
“Doesn’t look like things are going wrong
to me,” Dean interrupted. “Seems like you’ve
got more customers than not.”
these toys here?" she asked, waving at the piles
of wooden gifts sitting on the counter and stacked up
behind her. "They're all returns. Every single
one of them. These people aren't buying toys, they're
bringing them back. There's nothing wrong with them
but folks are demanding full refunds and our policy..."
She stopped and her forehead creased, exaggerating the
worry lines around her eyes. "I wouldn't mind if
there was a reason. I'd prefer them to say nothing rather
than these lies. And they're all telling the same lie!
I don't understand it. It's as if the whole town suddenly
has a grudge against Mort and it's just not right."
Sam asked. "What lies?"
looked up at him, tears in her eyes. "They're saying
the toys are bad news. They're saying that at night,
they come to life! Toys! Coming to life? How ridiculous
is that? Whoever heard of toys coming to life? It's
an insult to Mort and me." She was clearly on a
roll now that she had started her story. As she spoke,
Sam wondered how long she had had to keep this tale
bottled up inside her. She plainly didn't believe the
reasons for the returns, and why should she? Sam and
Dean, on the other hand, had seen much, much more implausible
raised a suitably surprised eyebrow. "Coming to
life?" He picked up the nearest toy, a wooden workbench
designed for chubby toddler hands, complete with hammer
and nuts and bolts. The wood was smooth and somehow
pleasing to handle. To Dean's untrained eye it looked
the perfect present for a three year old. He twirled
the hammer absently round his fingers. "How does
a hammer come to life?" he wondered.
The first time I heard it, I just thought someone didn't
want to admit it was an unwanted present. By the fifth
time..." Tessa shrugged. "But what can I do?
It's destroying Mort. The only toys returned are the
ones he makes. He hardly comes out of the workshop nowadays,
I can't get him to talk about it. In fact, he hardly
says anything at all." She leant forward, lowering
her voice. "It's starting to affect Nathan now
too," she confided.
our son. He's twelve now and we rarely see him before
he sleeps in,” Dean observed, swapping the hammer
for a perfectly crafted miniature steam train. "Isn't
that what twelve-year-olds do?"
laughed, "Maybe it is. Maybe this is just getting
to us all more than I thought."
was about to reply when the cheerful sound of the doorbell
rang through the store and a woman entered carrying
a bag in one hand and a determined, yet haunted, look
on her face. She hovered in the doorway momentarily,
eyes flitting over the shelves and displays positioned
strategically on the floor. Her gaze settled on the
counter, taking in the conversation she had obviously
interrupted, and she took a few steps in that direction.
Seeing the conversation was about to be ended, Dean
waved the little train at Tessa.
take this one, please," he told her, digging in
his pocket for the cash. Both Sam and Tessa looked at
him in amazement.
you sure?" Tessa couldn't quite understand why
the young man in front of her was about to make a purchase
after the bizarre story she had just shared. "You'll
be bringing it back before the week's out."
simply handed over the bills, smiled his most disarming
smile at Tessa and pocketed the train. "I'll take
the time the Winchester brothers had made their way
back to the motel, the moon had risen in the winter
sky. The clear night showed the stars to maximum effect
and if it hadn't been so damned cold out there, Sam
would have been content to stay outside for a little
while longer. Dean, on the other hand, couldn't get
inside quick enough.
leaving Westland’s Toy Shop they had headed for
the nearest diner, ostensibly to get something to eat,
but Sam suspected Dean was just trying to stay out of
the crappy motel room for as long as possible. After
what seemed an age he had persuaded his older brother
the time had come to pay up and leave. Dean had dragged
his heels a little but the motel couldn't be avoided
forever. Plus, Sam wanted to see if he could find any
other instances of toy animation. He'd never heard of
it before, but there were plenty of supernatural phenomena
they'd not come across yet.
the door was closed behind them and salt lines laid,
because they were both too well traveled to ignore the
basics of the hunting life, Sam's first move was to
get his laptop up and running. Burying himself in various
promising websites, he closed himself off to the outside
world in general, and Dean's fidgeting in particular.
It was as he suspected, however. He could find nothing
at all that sounded even vaguely similar to the situation
Tessa had explained to them and he was beginning to
wonder if the root of the problem, if there was a problem,
lay not in the toys but in the toymaker. Switching his
search from toys to Mortimer Westland, he sat back and
stretched his arms out in front of him, noticing for
the first time that Dean was sitting staring at the
pocket train he'd purchased earlier.
train was resting silent and still on the bedside table,
Dean sitting on the bed, staring at it, almost daring
it to do something. Sam idly wondered how long he'd
been glaring at the toy and couldn't help the smile
that crept onto his face. Dean's sixth sense must have
kicked in about the same time because his head snapped
up, eyes locking onto his brother’s immediately.
he asked, defensively.
Sam replied. "Just wondered what you're doing?"
shrugged noncommittally and turned his attention back
to the train. He ran his fingers along the little locomotive's
tank as far as the funnel. Picking it up, he slowly
turned the wheels, admiring the precision with which
the turning rods moved in perfect synchronization. Placing
it back on the table, he pushed it along, stopping only
when the surface ran out and the train would have fallen
to the floor.
benevolently, Sam turned back to his laptop and his
research on Mortimer Westland. He found little new on
the website regarding the man himself, but the shop
itself had caused quite a stir when it opened. He had
just found a particularly interesting website on new
toy manufacturers when his concentration was interrupted
by a strange noise emitting from his brother's direction.
Something between a hiss and a snort.
up, he was surprised to see Dean had moved from the
bed to the floor, train and all. He was lying on his
stomach, pushing the train along with one finger and
imitating the sound of steam and train wheels click
clacking over rail tracks. Sam toyed with the idea of
getting his cell phone out. Photographic evidence of
this moment would be worth its weight in gold one day
and it really was an opportunity too good to pass up.
Just as he was reaching into his pocket though, Dean
let out a loud “whoo whoo,” making Sam jump,
knocking a bottle of water off the table he was working
What the hell are you doing?" he exclaimed, no
longer able to contain his amusement. Dean, for his
part, looked startled. He had become so absorbed in
his activity he had actually forgotten Sam was in the
room still and his face colored ever so slightly.
he mumbled, face turned away from Sam.
Sam repeated. "How can playing with a toy be research?
This," he waved a hand at his laptop, "is
research. That," waving at the train, "is
messing about. If you're bored why don't you go find
a bar or something? There must be one in town you haven't
been to yet."
rolled on to his back and sat up, resting against the
side of his bed. He picked up the train and brandished
it in Sam's direction. "Tessa said the toys are
waking up kids to play at night. If this is gonna work,
I have to make it believe there's a kid in the place."
He let his hand drop by his side, giving Sam a triumphant
look. Sam, however, wasn't convinced and merely raised
his eyebrows at his supposedly older brother. Dean didn't
miss the look and tilted his head to one side. "Hey,
it could work. If you've got any better ideas, I'm all
ears," he defended himself.
Sam conceded. "How come you're suddenly taking
this so seriously, though? I thought this was just a
sob story for Christmas as far as you were concerned.
Why the sudden change of heart?"
children, Sam.” He sighed as though that answered
all Sam's questions. A cloud passed over his features
and he scrubbed a hand over his face. Sam waited patiently
for his brother to continue, knowing when to give Dean
space. Dean shook his head and studied Sam seriously.
"If the toys are just playing with children, Sam,
there's no harm done. But toys aren't meant to come
alive. They're meant to sit quietly until they're picked
up. These toys aren't natural, Sammy. And if they're
not natural, then it's just a matter of time till someone
gets hurt. And chances are that someone is gonna be
a kid." He paused, collecting his thoughts, appreciating
Sam's silence. He turned back to the loco still resting
in his hand. "I couldn't live with myself if a
child dies and I could have done something to stop it,
Sam. I just couldn't."
makes you so sure this toy is going to do anything?"
Sam asked softly after a pause, digesting his brother's
might not but Mort made it and all the 'magic toys'
have been made exclusively by him." Dean shrugged,
his maudlin mood passing like a leaf on the breeze.
"And if it doesn't, well, that's your Christmas
gift sorted." He gave Sam a cheeky grin and pushed
himself up from the floor. Passing by Sam on his way
to the bathroom he placed the wooden train next to him.
"Keep an eye on it, for me. Just in case."
Campbell was six. She had been six for twenty-four hours
and she had worn herself out. The party her mom and
dad had thrown her earlier that day had been beyond
spectacular and she had eaten enough chocolate cake
and candy to see her through to puberty. Her friends
had surpassed themselves in their generosity and her
mom suspected it had a little more to do with keeping
up with the neighbors than love of her Lily. But Lily
didn't know, or care, for the politics behind the gift
giving. She just knew that Aunty Linda had the best
taste in dolls. She'd never had a wooden doll before
but she was certain that Millie and she were going to
have the most awesome tea parties in the history of,
well, tea parties.
had been the obligatory sulks at bedtime. Lily had tried
to tell Mom that now she was six, she should be allowed
to stay up till Daddy got home from work at least. Mom
had just smiled and put her to bed at the normal time,
stashing all her toys away in the wicker toy basket
standing in the corner of her pastel pink bedroom. Lily
had watched with eagle eyes as Millie had been placed
reverently at the bottom of the basket, other softer
and older toys placed gently on top of her. She made
up her mind that as soon as Mom was out of the room,
she would rectify the situation. Millie deserved to
be at the top of the pile.
it had been an exhausting day and by the time Mom had
reached the end of the Lost Little Duckling, Lily had
been fast asleep, dreaming of birthdays and parties
and cakes and Millie.
wasn't sure what had woken her but she knew it wasn't
getting up time yet. It was still dark outside and there
was no noise in the rest of the house. If it was time
to get up she would have heard her parents moving around,
getting breakfast ready, preparing for the day ahead.
As it was, there was only silence and the shadows cast
by the night light in the corner of the room, throwing
a warm glow over her dresser, bookcases, toy box and
other various childhood accoutrements.
up, rubbing her eyes, Lily slowly adjusted to the light
and slight chill in the air. She cocked her head to
one side as her ears detected a scraping noise coming
from her toy box. With the curiosity and fearlessness
only childhood can muster, she shoved her bedcovers
to one side and swung her legs over the edge, toes curling
in the deep pile of the carpet. When the noise came
again, she twisted her head in the direction of the
sound, watching with fascination as the lid lifted slightly,
then dropped back down again.
no idea that perhaps she should be afraid, Lily made
her way over to the corner of her room, carelessly kicking
her stuffed bear out of the way. She placed her hand
on the wicker lid and raised it, propping it up against
the wall. Delighted, she spied Millie sitting on the
top of the other toys in the box. Lifting her carefully
out, untangling her long, woolen hair from the skipping
rope she'd become entwined in, Lily gave her a swift
hug, clasping the doll to her like a long lost friend.
Lily moved the doll from her chest to her ear, listening
intently as she imagined a conversation she might have
with the doll. It was obvious to her young mind that
Millie wanted to play. There was nobody around to say
no to Lily and she decided that at six years old she
could make her own decisions about these things now.
She nodded, as though in agreement with the doll, and
pulled her robe off its peg on the back of the door,
and together Lily and Millie made their way downstairs
and into the kitchen.
Millie on the worktop, Lily pulled a stool over from
the breakfast table and climbed up on to it, careful
not to knock any cutlery or crockery while she was at
it. Listening intently to her doll, she scurried around
the kitchen, opening cupboards and drawers until she
had all the necessary ingredients and equipment to begin
baking. Putting flour and sugar, butter and eggs into
a large white bowl in no particular order or quantities,
she grabbed a large wooden spoon off of the worktop,
chatting all the while to Millie. Nonsensical, childish
chatter which would have meant nothing to an onlooker.
Covered in white flour and sticky from egg white and
yolk, she poured the resultant mess into a muffin tray
and ever so carefully, just like Mom had shown her,
placed them in the oven, set to a random temperature.
Satisfied with her work, she trotted back to Millie
and, grasping her hand, pulled her from the kitchen,
into the living room where the game quickly turned from
homemaking to tea parties. But tea parties have a habit
of becoming sleepovers and before the hour was out,
Lily had succumbed to fatigue, curling up on the sofa,
a cushion beneath her head and her arms wrapped tightly
Campbell was convinced he was dreaming about bonfires
and barbecues but when he heard the shrill whistle of
his home fire alarm all images fled his sleep-fuddled
brain. He shot up in bed, checking immediately his wife
was still by his side. Alice was now fully awake too
and her thoughts immediately turned to their young daughter,
sleeping in her room across the hallway.
Leaving David to ring the emergency services, she tore
into Lily's room, panic seizing her heart when she saw
the empty bed. Spinning around to ensure she hadn't
missed Lily hiding in a corner, she caught sight of
Millie resting on top of the wicker toy box. Too scared
to worry about the fact she had placed the toy firmly
at the bottom of the box, she dashed from the room,
heading to where the smoke was coming from. Meeting
her husband on the stairs, they split up, unspoken direction
Alice spun round on the spot at the bottom of the stairs,
running through the blueprint of her house in her head,
debating where her daughter would most likely be. Putting
herself in Lily's place, she decided the living room
held the most attractions for a six-year-old child.
Rushing to the doorway, she felt a weight lift from
her shoulders as she spied a huddled shape on the sofa
and, flicking on the lights, she almost sobbed with
relief to see a peaceful face, thumb firmly in mouth,
snuggled round a cushion.
Lily woke with a start as her mother shook her gently
on the arm and gathered her in her arms. She looked
on with confusion as her dad appeared in the doorway,
beckoning the pair of them out of the room, and out
of the house. She couldn't understand the look that
passed between them but, as they passed the smoke filled
kitchen, she wondered where Millie was and whether she
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