Title: The First Hunt
Beta: Annie B.
Author's Notes: This little plot bunny lept out at me while watching the indie film, 'Thumbsucker'. The next morning, I sat down and wrote this. Enjoy.
'Love and fear. Everything the father of a family says must inspire one or the other.'
He gathered his little brother, pressing him tighter against his side. The large man on the other side of the cell glared at them. "Yeah, Sam?" He shifted, his shoulder blades pressing painfully against the cold cinderblock wall behind them.
"Dad's gonna come and get us, right?"
Dean watched as the security guard made another slow pass-by, eyeing them warily. So far, the boys were being ignored by the larger cell mates, but Dean knew better than to slip into a false sense of security. Not when he had a little brother to protect.
"Yeah, Sam. He's coming." Large green eyes looked up at him and Dean smiled at the seven year old. "I called him, remember?"
Sam blinked. "He's gonna be mad."
Dean sighed. "Just because he's mad doesn't mean he won't come get us." The large man in the leather vest was staring at them again and Dean narrowed his eyes, tightening his grip around Sam's shoulders. "Try to go to sleep," Dean said, relaxing when the man finally looked away. "I'll be right here."
Sam wriggled against him, all knobby elbows and shoulders jabbing Dean in the ribs. "I'm sorry," Sam whispered.
Dean looked down at the top of his brother's head. "For what?"
"Making us get caught."
Two Hours Earlier
"Dean, Dad said we had to stay home. I don't think we should go."
Dean pulled the red plastic container out from underneath an old tire and shut the shed door. Moonlight cast a pale light over the small backyard and crickets chirped in the background. "Well, Dad's not here right now. He's cleansing Mrs. Robinson's house. This is our chance to show Dad that we're big boys."
Sam eyed the gas container warily. "But he told us not to leave the house…"
Dean pocketed the book of matches and grabbed one shovel, holding it out for Sam. "Take this. It's only a ghost, Sam. All we gotta do is dig up the body, salt the bones and burn them. Nothing bad will happen. We've seen Dad do it tons of times."
Sam took the shovel and leaned against it. They were almost the same size. "You promise we won't get in trouble?"
"What, are you chicken?" Dean goaded, grabbing his own shovel and the gas. "You afraid to be out after your bedtime?"
Sam clenched his jaw. "No. I'm not afraid."
"Well, come on then. The quicker we get over there, the quicker you can come home. Chicken." Dean started walking and Sam's sneakers squeaked in the wet grass as he followed.
"I'm not a chicken!"
"Shut up, Dean."
Sam was silent after that.
The walk to the graveyard was short and they knew the path well. Dean had led them through a series of backyards- avoiding the ones with dogs or tall fences- and they were careful to avoid being seen. After all, two boys with shovels and a can of gasoline was enough to raise anyone's suspicions.
Dean pulled open the heavy wrought-iron gate and the two boys slipped inside. Large trees littered the gently rolling hills and grave markers jutted from the earth in long, even rows. Moonlight illuminated the narrow gravel paths and the boys made their way towards Elliot P Marriott's grave.
John Winchester had done all the research after a distraught woman called a few days ago, claiming her house was being haunted by her dead ex-husband. John had classified the case as a 'simple haunting'- one that got put on hold when Mrs. Robinson called about a poltergeist. So after telling the boys to 'stay put, he would be back before sunup', John left.
He could blame it on a number of things: the house being too small and too quiet, Sam being too young and too playful… even Dad for being too explicit in his methods for killing the supernatural. Whatever the cause, 11 year-old Dean Winchester decided that tonight, he'd prove himself old enough to hunt alone. He'd slip out, salt and burn the bones, then return before Dad even knew he was gone. And in the morning, he'd flaunt his first solo victory and Dad would be proud.
It sounded like a great idea.
He'd only managed to grab the salt off the shelf before Sam pattered into the kitchen, eyes big and curious.
"What are you doing?"
Dean shut the pantry door. "Nothing."
"What's that for?"
"Nothing." Dean shouldered past Sam and headed for the back door.
"Where're you going?"
And after that, Sammy just never stopped following him.
An owl hooted overhead and Dean looked up at it. Sam drew closer and Dean could feel his brother's heat on his back. "You scared?"
Dean smiled. "We're almost there."
"How come we don't get paid for killing ghosts? Jimmy's dad pays him to take the trash outside. He gets fifty cents!"
Dean snorted. "I don't know, Sam. You should ask Dad, okay?"
They crested the small hill and came to a stop before Marriott's tombstone. Dean set the gas can down and gripped the shovel with both hands. "You ready?"
Sam looked less than thrilled. "Yeah," he sighed, and together they started digging.
Half an hour later, the two boys had only managed to move two feet of earth. Sam wasn't really a help; his younger body hadn't developed those kinds of muscles yet, and Dean was wearing out quickly. He jammed the shovel into the thick dirt and rested on it, wiping sweat from his forehead.
"I'm tired, Dean."
"I know, buddy. But we're not even half-way yet. We gotta keep digging." Dean let his eyes roam over the silent graveyard. He thought he saw a flash of something so he squinted, but everything was still. Dean rubbed his eyes and looked back to the small mound of dirt.
"How come Daddy can do this a lot faster?"
"Dad's bigger than we are. Bigger people are stronger."
"I wish I was big."
Dean smiled. "That's too bad. I'm always going to be bigger than you."
Sam looked disappointed. "Why?"
"Because I'm your older brother. It's the law."
"Speaking of the law," a deep voice interrupted, "You two boys are breaking one right now."
Dean jumped and whirled around. A tall man in a uniform was standing behind them, pointing a flashlight in their faces. A gun was holstered at his side and a hat obscured half his face.
Dean knew that bigger was stronger, but bigger was not always faster. "Sam, run!" he shouted, dropping the shovel and grabbing his little brother's hand. He yanked Sam along behind him, running away from the cop as fast as he could move them.
He was barely aware of the cop's shouts as he made his way towards the wrought-iron fence. It circled the entire cemetery and it was too far to make it back to the gate where they'd come in. They'd have to scale it.
Dean stumbled to a halt, crashing into the iron bars as Sam fell against his back. He turned and grabbed Sam, pushing him towards the fence. "Come on, Sam. You gotta climb it," he panted, placing Sam's smaller hands on the bars above his head. "I'll be right behind you."
Sam was panicking. "I can't!" he said, his cheeks red and his eyes wide. "It's too high!"
"Sam, you have to!" Dean knelt down and grabbed one foot, forcing Sam to bend his knee as he lifted. "Go!"
"Freeze! Don't move!"
Sam was halfway over the fence when the cop thundered to a stop next to them. Dean eyed the man and more importantly, the handcuffs he was jingling. "Come on, Sam," he muttered, wrapping his arms around Sam's kicking legs and lowering his brother to the ground. "Looks like we're going for a ride."
Dean blinked, clearing the memories from his mind. "It's not your fault, Sam. It's mine. It was a stupid idea."
"It wouldn't have been stupid if we didn't get in trouble," Sam offered.
Dean smiled. "Thanks."
Sam looked up at Dean with a dirt-streaked face. "How much longer till Dad comes?"
A door slammed open and shouts filled the air. "I'd say right about now," Dean mumbled, pulling them both to their feet.
"Dean! Sam! Front and center, boys! Now!"
The man in the leather vest backed away as Dean steered them to the front of the holding cell. John was marching towards them, a scowl etched deep on his face.
"Get them out of there," he ordered the nearest guard. "What the hell is wrong with you, putting two kids in a cell with those guys?"
A flicker of hope ignited within Dean. Maybe Dad was more mad at the cops…
"We were keeping a close eye on them, sir. They were safe." The cell was opened and the boys stepped out. "With all due respect, your kids know how to handle themselves."
John turned his glare towards Dean, and all hopes of getting away with this went up in smoke. "You are in some serious trouble, young man."
Dean stuttered. "But… I… we…It was only-"
"Save it!" John snapped, his eyes going back to the guard. "Can I take them home now?"
Even the guard looked afraid of the eldest Winchester. He nodded, stepping back. "Yes."
John glared at Dean. "Let's go."
Dean followed after his dad, his hand never letting go of Sam's. They wound their way through the police station, Dean's cheeks burning as people stared. He felt like a bad puppy on a string, being yanked along by an owner who had cleaned urine off the floor one too many times.
They stepped outside and the cool air made him shiver. The sun would be rising soon and the morning traffic was just getting started. He led Sam down the stairs and around the corner, noticing how their father never once looked back to make sure they were still following.
John grabbed the car's door handle and yanked it open. "Get in," he ordered, then disappeared inside and slammed the door shut after him. The engine gunned to life as Dean opened the back door, wisely choosing to sit next to Sam for the trip home.
The ride home was silent. The tension was suffocating.
John pulled into the driveway and shut off the car. "Get inside and get ready for school. Breakfast will be ready in ten minutes."
He was gone before they could say 'Yes, sir.'
Sam looked at Dean as they slid out of the car. "We have to go to school? But we didn't get to sleep!"
"I think that's the point, Sam."
The boys walked side-by-side up the driveway, then Dean walked behind Sam through the front door, past the kitchen where John was banging pans around, then up the stairs and into their bedroom.
When they slid into their seats at the kitchen table, there were two plates of white toast and scrambled eggs drowned in ketchup waiting. John paced in front of the sink for a moment, then turned and leaned back against it. "Well?"
"Dad, it was my fault," Dean spoke up as Sam gulped down half his glass of milk. "I wanted to show you that I could do it on my own."
"I don't want you doing anything on your own," John replied. "It's not safe."
"But you do," Sam spoke up with a mouth full of eggs.
"I'm bigger and older, Sam," John said firmly. "I'm the father. I'm allowed to do things by myself. You two are not."
Dean's hands were in his lap. "It was supposed to be simple," he said. "I didn't plan on the cops showing up."
"It was stupid," John shot back. "You dragged your brother along- your seven year old brother- and started digging up a grave? Do you know how much money it costs to get people out of jail, Dean?"
Dean was pretty sure his father was bluffing- surely kids don't need bailed out- but he got the point anyway. "No sir."
"It costs more than we can afford. You were supposed to sit here and watch your brother. Was that too hard for you? Was there a part of that didn't you understand?"
John's voice was raising and Dean shrunk back. "I just-"
"You were very irresponsible last night, Dean. I don't know what's gotten into you. I need to be able to trust you."
"I told him not to," Sam mumbled, then quickly finished his milk.
"Shut up, Sam," Dean snapped.
"Both of you shut up. When I tell you to do something, I expect you to do it, is that clear?"
"Dean, what is your number one priority?"
"To watch Sam." It was ingrained in him- an automatic response- but he was proud of the responsibility.
"And did you do that last night, while you were digging up graves?"
He thought he had been. Sam was there too, wasn't he? But Dean knew what answer his dad wanted. "No."
He blinked, looking at his father. "Yes sir?"
John lowered his voice. "I want you boys to be safe, understand me? We can't find your mother's killer if we're not safe. You boys are all I have left. What if it wasn't a cop that caught you last night? What if it was a spirit? What would you have done?"
Dean didn't know.
John sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "All right. Get to school. You come straight home afterwards. You will train and then there will be a long list of chores waiting for you."
The boys pushed back from the table and Dean carried their plates to the sink. Sam put on his backpack and was waiting by the door. "Hey, Dad?"
"What, Sam." John didn't move.
"Jimmy at school says that his daddy gives him money for doing chores. He gets fifty-"
Dean took one look at his father's clenched jaw and narrowed eyes before grabbing Sammy and pushing them out the door.