By Spectral Scribe

Disclaimer: I do not own or lay claim to anything Supernatural-related, including Sam, Dean, and John Winchester. Anything you don't recognize is mine; anything you do is not.

Summary: Rule #1: "We do what we do and we shut up about it." What else might one find in the Winchester Family Rulebook? A collection of events from the boys' lives that teach them each of the rules. Pre-pilot.

Rule One: We do what we do and we shut up about it.

At first, Sam didn't realize that most normal people didn't do target practice in their backyards while their father bellowed the key places in which to shoot a wraith. His brother told him that knowing how to use a .45 in dire situations was an important part of growing up, like puberty… though he still wasn't sure what that was aside from his vague ideas of a demon stripping people of their childhood.

So, of course, what was the point of lying about something so normal?

Dean told him it was like when they snuck extra cookies and then ate them in the closet so that Dad wouldn't find out and punish them. Dad told him it was because other people didn't understand, they didn't get it, and they would be angry and confused and take it out on Sam for telling the truth. Sam was under the impression that many people were stupid; so he tried twice as hard to be smart, in case not getting 'it' was contagious… and Sam wasn't quite sure what 'it' was, but knew it was important. Still, something just didn't click in his seven-year-old mind.

That is, of course, until the hunt where he learned the importance of Winchester Rule Number One.

The house in Cedar Springs, Utah was quaint and faintly suburban, with a wood-cabin type den that smelled of fresh evergreen. Sam liked it. They'd been living there for over a year, and he hoped that they'd stay there until he graduated elementary school, which he was enjoying way too much for the average second-grader (at least, according to Dean). He even had something here that he hadn't really had back in Kansas – a group of kids to hang out with at school, and sometimes on the weekends if he wasn't busy learning how to bow-hunt or spar with his brother, who was eleven and got to go on hunts with his dad sometimes.

As much as he liked the house, it did get lonely. Especially when Dean and Dad were hunting. He didn't like staying home alone, but whenever he felt scared, he'd go into the den that smelled like evergreens and pretend that he was on a camping trip like normal families, roasting marshmallows over a bonfire. But other times he would simply cower under the covers of his bed and hope that Dean and Dad would get back soon, grinning and triumphant and covered in dirt like always, with guns slung over their shoulders like cowboys in old westerns.

"Whadda we got this weekend?" Dean – rugged with worn clothes, dirty blonde hair, and mischievous hazel eyes – tossed himself onto a threadbare couch and put his hands behind his head as if he owned the world.

A newspaper rustled as John turned the page. "There's a poltergeist about a half hour's drive from here; I talked to the couple. They left the house two days ago, so we're free to get in there this Saturday and salt the place down."

Dean picked at his shirt and flicked the offending piece of fuzz across the room. "Hey, if it's just a routine poltergeist, why don't we take Sammy along?"

Sam, from his place on the floor in front of an opened book – A History of Hauntings, something far too challenging for the likes of a second grader, who should have been looking at Thomas the Tank Engine – perked his head up to look at his father. The latter ran a hand over the stubble on his chin, like he always did when deep in thought. At last, he shook his head.

"No, even a routine poltergeist can get nasty. He's only seven."

"I was seven when you took me to help you with that water wraith," Dean pointed out, moving on to picking at his teeth in a bored sort of way. But Sam could tell that he was far from bored – the way his eyes were lighting up, it was obvious that he was indeed very interested in the conversation.

John frowned. "That was a poor decision. You're coming with, Sam's not, end of discussion. We can pick this up in a few years when he's ready." Crinkle, swish. He turned the next page of the newspaper.

Dean shrugged. "Sorry, Bud. I tried." Sam hoped that his disappointment didn't shine too clearly in his eyes when he nodded, frowning at the prospect of staying home alone again. But Dean, with a grin, hopped off the couch and tackled Sam to the floor, turning his attack into tickles as Sam tried to shove his big brother off through peels of laughter.

Another routine day; another routine hunt ahead.

"—And Jason said we could go over to his house on Saturday to watch it and eat pizza, so if your dad's okay with it, my mom said she can drive us there," Todd rambled, giving Sam his signature missing-a-front-tooth grin and fidgeting in his Ninja Turtles shirt. Sam frowned as he got settled into his desk, sinking into the hard plastic chair.

"Nah, I can't," he mumbled, knowing that John Winchester would have a fit if his youngest wasn't safely at home while he was out on a hunt, with a ring of salt around him for good measure.

"Why not?" Todd chirped, pulling at the Velcro straps on his sneakers.

Sam sat perfectly still, too glum to think about what Dean always said about the cookies and Dad always said about people not getting it. "Because my dad and brother are going on a hunt this weekend, and I have to stay home."

"Hunt? Whadda they hunt? My dad used to hunt deer. Do they hunt deer? Or ducks? Or…" he frowned, seeming to strain himself with the thought of what else people might hunt.

Sam crossed his arms, in full brooding mode. "No, they… they hunt… evil stuff. Ghosts and demons and werewolves and stuff…" he trailed off, biting his lip with everything that had just come out of his mouth. Glancing over at Todd to see his reaction, he chewed absently on his lower lip.

But Todd laughed. "Werewolves? Yeah, right. My dad says that stuff's not real." He had moved on from fidgeting with his Velcro straps to pulling at a loose thread in his jeans.

"Well, your dad doesn't get it," Sam retaliated, half proud of himself for coming up with something to say and half angry that Todd didn't believe him. He wasn't sure if Todd knew what 'it' was, but it seemed, from the look of comprehension and scrutiny on his face, that he had a better idea than Sam.

"Oh yeah? Prove it," he shot back with a daring, missing-a-tooth grin that rounded out the baby fat still present in his cheeks.


Todd shrugged, tapping his fingers on his desk. "I dunno. Show me one of those things, a ghost or something. Where are they?"

Sam thought for a moment. "Well, there's this poltergeist my dad and brother are hunting this weekend…"

"Okay, show me that one."

"I can't," Sam replied, distraught and not liking the hole he seemed to be digging himself into.

"Why not?"

"Because… I can't," Sam finished lamely, but the more he thought about it… the more possible it seemed. An idea was already formulating in his brain, taking such a clear shape that it almost frightened him. No, he didn't want to disobey Dad… but if Dad didn't know he was coming along, then he wouldn't get in trouble, just like when Dad didn't know about Dean and him stealing the cookies…

"Good Morning, class."

"Good Morning, Mrs. Jacobson."

Sam leaned over to Todd, ignoring the teacher for a moment. "Okay, I'll do it. Tell your parents you're coming over to my house on Saturday afternoon. Leave the rest up to me."

And, with the prospect of having a friend who got it, who understood, who he didn't have to lie to, Sam smiled to himself and got out last night's spelling homework.

"Okay," Sam whispered, leaning into the backseat of the Impala with a large blanket. Todd was already crouched on the floor, beaming with excitement. "All you have to do is hide under this blanket and don't move. I'll be back in a few minutes, and then we have to be quiet all the way there or my dad will find us. Okay?"

Todd nodded enthusiastically.

"And you're not gonna move, right?"

Todd sighed in annoyance. "No, I'm not gonna move. Just gimme the blanket, all right?"

Sam dumped the blanket on top of Todd, proud that it looked merely like a thick, rumpled blanket than a blanket hiding a seven-year-old boy. Closing the door, Sam dashed back into his house and sauntered into the kitchen, where Dean and Dad were checking their supply of weaponry.

Sam stepped through the doorway just as Dean was loading a large bucket of table salt into the green duffle bag. "Oh, hey, Sammy," he greeted.

John looked up as well. "All right, Sam, you know the drill. We'll be leaving in about five minutes. Go upstairs, do the salt, and stay out of trouble."

"Okay," Sam replied brightly. "I'm gonna go upstairs now and read." And with that, he walked – a little more loudly than necessary, to prove his point – up the stairs and rambunctiously closed his bedroom door from the outside. Grinning at his sneakiness, he tiptoed back down the stairs and to the front door, exiting as quietly as he could and hopping into the Impala's backseat with Todd.

"My dad said it'd be about half an hour," he whispered once he was under the blanket with Todd. "Just, whatever you do, don't make any noise and don't move."

Todd nodded, rustling the blanket lightly with his head movement, and went back to fiddling with an old pencil he'd found on the floor of the car.

Twenty-five minutes into the trip, just when Sam was beginning to think they'd pulled it off and was beginning to relax the tension in his shoulders, Todd gave the loudest sneeze that someone of his stature could possibly give. It whooshed out of his lungs in a gigantic huff, courtesy of the dust he'd inhaled while toying with bits of fuzz on the floor. The car swerved slightly as Sam heard his father give a muffled exclamation, and suddenly the blanket was pulled off of both of them, leaving them sitting guiltily on the car floor with blanket-mussed hair. Sam bit his lip bracingly.

"Sam! What the hell are you doing here?" John cried out, his furious eyes on the road and his white knuckles gripping the steering wheel tightly. Dean bunched up the blanket tightly and chucked it down by his feet, the slight part between his lips betraying his shock.

"I – I –" he stuttered, trying to think of a good explanation. "Todd, he wanted to see a poltergeist, because I told him that you were hunting one this weekend, and he didn't believe me, so he wanted to see it, and I thought we could just peek into the house so he could see it and believe me, and so we snuck into the car, but he said he… didn't believe me…" Sam caught his breath as his voice trailed off, trying to stay calm at the fire his father's eyes reflected in the rearview mirror.

"You disobeyed a direct order," John said at last in a low voice, pulling into the driveway of a large townhouse and easing the car into park. He didn't even turn to look at Sam, who was hugging his knees to his chest in the cramped position, when he spoke. "Right now, I have a poltergeist to deal with. But make no mistake, I'll deal with you when we get home." There was a pause, and Dean merely sat straight in his seat, glancing blankly from John to Sam – but Sam could see the nervousness in his eyes. At last, John turned around in his seat and pointed a finger at Sam and Todd, the latter of which was remaining unusually silent. "You two are to stay in the car until we come back, understood? I mean it. Under no circumstances are you to leave this car."

Sam nodded. "Yes, Sir." His dad glanced momentarily at Todd, who was watching him, wide-eyed, before nodding and getting out of the car. Before hopping out himself, Dean turned around in his seat and shot Sam an admiring look.

"I gotta hand it to you, Sam. You've got guts… but Dad is gonna kill you." With a grin that fell somewhere between awed admiration and pitying amusement, Dean pushed open the car door and stepped out, slamming it behind him.

Once Dean and Dad had disappeared into the house, Sam pulled himself up onto the seat carefully, as if moving the wrong way would summon his father's wrath. He barely even noticed the flurry of movement to his right until the door popped open, and he looked up to see Todd standing just outside the open car door, gazing eagerly up at the house.

"Todd, no! What are you, crazy? You heard my dad. He said not to leave the car or we'll be in so much trouble!" Sam cried out, scurrying onto Todd's seat so he was closer to the lunatic boy standing on the driveway.

But Todd merely grinned that missing-a-tooth grin and rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Sam. I just wanna get a closer look. What your dad doesn't know won't hurt him."

Why did this idea keep popping up all of a sudden? It was as if Sam couldn't escape the lies and deceit around him, pressuring him to join in on the fun. He shook his head fervently and scrubbed his hands over his messy brown hair. "No, we have to stay in the car or we'll get in more trouble. You heard what he said. Besides, he found out we were here, didn't he? Nice job of not making any sound, by the way," he added, having learned the art of sarcasm from his older brother.

Todd folded his arms, glanced up at the building, and began plodding up the driveway.

"I mean it, Todd! If you go in there, my dad'll catch you, and you'll get in big trouble! I'm not going in after you!" he shouted from inside the car, his insides squirming as if he had been filled with a writhing pile of worms. "I'm serious, Todd!" His voice grew shriller with every word he said until Todd gave him one last look and vanished through the front door.

Sam stared at the open car door like a one might watch a ticking bomb. His hands were trembling slightly with anxiety, and he was torn between not wanting to get in trouble and wanting to get Todd out of the house. Bad things happened when people disobeyed his dad. He didn't want Todd to get in more trouble than they were already in.

Torn literally in two, feeling as if his very body were ripping at the seams, Sam groaned and stepped out of the car, carefully closing the door behind him and sneaking quietly up the driveway. He felt that his shoes were two guns going off every time he stepped, and he waited for his dad to appear with those bloodhound ears of his and grab Sam by the collar. But at last he reached the front door, and when nobody appeared to yell at him, he slipped inside and closed the door quietly behind him.

The front hall of the house was eerily silent; the beige walls, covered in fancy paintings of mountains and rivers, loomed up on either side of him into the high, vaulted ceiling, which threatened to swallow the little boy up. Sam took a breath, focusing his mind by thinking of the ways to destroy a poltergeist, and moved haltingly to the first doorway on his right. Pulling it open, he spotted coats hanging from a pole; a closet. His tongue longed to call out for Todd so that he knew where his friend was, but at the same time he didn't want to give himself away. Oh, he had certainly gotten himself into a sticky mess this time.

Sam's heart leapt into his throat when he heard footsteps upstairs, and he quickly tied them to his father and brother, familiar with the heavy footsteps and the quick, lighter ones. Expelling his breath, he moved quietly to the next doorway, on his left. Pulling it open, he found the living room – complete with two leather sofas, a television set, a floating coffee table, and Todd.

Todd, pinned to the far wall.

Todd, being choked by the edge of the coffee table, which was rammed into his neck and had him dangling three feet off the floor.

Todd, squirming and kicking his legs feebly, his face red and scrunched up in an effort to draw in oxygen.

Sam felt his feet go numb. He tried running over to his friend, but his legs were unable to move. His throat, which tried to call out, had seized up and clogged itself shut, feeling tighter than a pipe in desperate need of Drain-o.

And with a swift, decisive movement, the coffee table spun around and sent Todd hurling through the air… slamming into the television set, which exploded in a burst of shattering glass and fireworks… crumpling to the floor with streaks of blood running down his face…

Sam screamed.

He heard, but didn't see, heavy footsteps flying down the stairs and into the room. He heard voices, but his eyes were filled with the blurred image of still, unmoving, un-fidgeting Todd. There was a scuffle around him – salt thrown through the air like powdery snow during winter play – and, at last, the inanimate objects in the room had stopped moving, and he felt two strong arms grab him by the shoulders as his father's face loomed into view.

"Sammy, what are you doing in here?" The voice was forceful and clearly angry, but also remorseful and gruff with concern.

"T-T-Todd… came in h-here… he w-wanted to see…" Sam sputtered through the tears that he didn't want to let spill, standing stock-still with his arms pinned to his sides. The hands let go of him and moved away, towards the immobile boy on the floor.

"He's all right; he's breathing. Looks like he's just pretty cut up."

A much smaller hand than before grabbed the back of Sam's neck, which was the closest to a hug he was going to receive. Dean bent down in front of him, his hazel eyes wide with worry and guilt; and when he murmured quietly, "Sorry, Sammy," Sam didn't know what he had to be sorry about. It was all his fault, Sam's fault. He had told Todd something he shouldn't have, he had dragged him here, he had gotten his best friend hurt. He should never have let slip The Family Secret, never should have told him the truth. He should have lied like Dean and Dad wanted him to. But lying had gotten him into this mess. It was a lose-lose situation, and he hated it.

John Winchester carried the unconscious Todd out to the car, along with the green duffel bag; Dean led Sam outside by the back of his neck, down the driveway, and into the front seat. Sam watched, without really seeing, as Dean hopped into the back with Todd, grimacing slightly at the sight of the boy.


And then Sam burst into tears, burying his face in his hands and leaning forward in his seat, his breath hitching horribly as he sobbed. He wanted a hug, but he received no comfort. His father put the car into reverse, and then pulled away from the house, his dad and Dean talking in low voices while Sam tuned them out, quieting his breath until his tears had become silent in his burning eyes.

They arrived at Todd's house a little under half an hour later, and Sam watched helplessly as Dean hoisted the scrawny boy onto his shoulder and hurried to the front door. After setting him down carefully, he knocked on the door and sprinted back to the car, hopping in the back just as John pulled away down the street. Sam leaned his head against the cool glass of the window and watched as Todd's mom opened the door, her face contorting in horror. He bit his lip as more tears ran down his face and tried to lean further into the glass as they turned a corner, the house vanishing from sight.

"All right, once we get home, pack up everything you've got. We're leaving as soon as possible, before anything can get pinned on us," John ordered firmly.

Sam turned his head slightly, his cheek still pressed against the cool, smooth glass. "Dad?" he murmured quietly.

"No, Sam. We can't stay. I'm sorry about what happened to Todd, but he'll be all right. His parents will fix him up fine. As for you… what have you learned from this?"

Sam thought for a moment, his tears drying on his cheeks and making the skin under the wet streaks tight. Then, in a small voice – "Don't tell people about hunting."

John nodded in affirmation. "That's right, Sam. We do what we do – and we shut up about it. Do you understand?"

Sam did.