Disclaimer: Winchester universe not mine, but I spend enough time there, you know?
Dad Said No
John: "I said get in the damn car"
Sam: "Yeah! And I said no!" - Dean Man's Blood
Chapter 6, Disobedience
Sammy sits in the back seat of the Impala, pouting, while John and Dean suit up. Dean takes his cue from his father, who is silent and tense for the hunt, but Sammy is restless and unhappy and taking no pains to hide it.
John doesn't anticipate a complicated hunt, there has been reports of what could only be a Redcap terrorizing hikers and a few bodies had turned up, but they were cowardly creatures and not bright. Anyone who knew what he was doing could cut it down for size with a diminishing ritual and take out the pests. He does need Dean to read the incantation, but he can handle the rest.
At eight, Sammy was deemed too young to participate and is being confined to the car for the duration. That's why he's petulantly kicking the seat in front of him while John quickly sets up a protective perimeter around the car. John put a stop to that with a sharp finger snap and "the look." Sam looks up crossly, but complies with the warning. He knows John doesn't tolerate disrespect to the Impala any more than to his own person and would be pissed if Sam accidentally marked up the upholstery while sulking.
According to John's notes, Redcaps are killed by beheading, but are impenetrable at full power. John had checked with Jim and the Pastor had assured him that Redcaps really could be stopped in their tracks with a bible verse; it made their teeth drop out, rending them more or less harmless. He had both the boys memorize several. If it got past all that, Sam had iron rounds loaded up for him, which should also act as a deterrent in a tight spot.
"You have Pastor Jim's number. If we're not back by midnight, call him. He'll send backup. Do NOT, for any reason, leave this car. That's an order, Samuel."
"What if I have to go to the bathroom?" Sam objects.
John tries to keep his temper in check. He takes a deep breath. "Do you have to go to the bathroom?" He demands.
"No, but what if I do?"
"Then you're outta luck. Hold it till we get back."
Sam glares. "This is so unfair," he mutters under his breath.
John decides to ignore it. "STAY put," he repeats, looking at his son expectantly.
"Yes, sir," Sam says darkly, because it is required.
"Good doggy," Dean teases under his breath, smirking evilly, as John turns away.
Sam glares and sticks out his tongue as John, who had sharp ears for an old guy, whirls on his oldest. "Watch it, Mister," he growls. The stern expression and warning index finger immediately wipe the smirk from Dean's face.
"Sorry," Dean apologizes quickly, catching the superior expression on Sam's face and wishing he were close enough to kick.
"And both of you, keep it down!" John orders quietly. "Sammy, close the doors and lock them. Nobody gets in without the password."
Sam nods and does as he's told, watching through the shut windows as John talks to Dean. He can't make out the orders, but the older boy nods professionally, shouldering his pack. Sam feels a spasm of jealousy and longing. He's sick of being treated like a baby, tired of being left behind.
He watches as John and Dean dissolve into the darkness. Suddenly the anger cools and he's left with a cold, dark dread.
The car is parked next to the trailhead and dusky evening light makes the small outhouse and signage loom ominous as the day fades. Sam shivers, hearing the wind rustle testily outside. He snakes Dean's sweatshirt from the front, pulling it over his head and rolling up the sleeves. It's too big, but Sam likes the way it billows around him, warm and familiar.
He hoists his Spiderman backpack onto the seat beside him, switching on his flashlight. The plastic knapsack is worn and faded and it's patched up with duct tape. Sam inherited it from Dean, who tended to be a little rougher on his belongings. The younger boy had begged for a new one in September, but Dad hadn't been keen on the idea.
Sam tries to complete a math assignment from his workbook, but it's too hard. He needs Dad or Dean to show him. Instead, he flips through his daily reading for the week. He knows all the vocab and spelling words already, so it doesn't take him very long to complete the worksheet. That's all the homework he has.
Dad's got a folder of research in the front seat. Sam snuck a look it back at the hotel even though he knew he'd catch it if Dad caught him messing with his journal without permission. The eight-year-old involuntarily shivers as he thinks about the wicked looking creature with cruel, jagged teeth and long spindly fingers that sustains itself on the blood of its victims, paralyzing them with a mild poison which made the muscles seize and the blood run freely, dying its "cap" in the fresh blood of the dead.
Sam pushes it from his mind as best he's able. He's bored, fears occupying his idle thoughts. He digs in Dean's bag for the older boy's reading book. Sam's nearly finished. He's much further in it than Dean, who never completes his assignments till the last minute or until Dad makes him. Sam thinks it's a good story, though, and reads it when Dad and Dean don't have time to play. He curls up on the seat, holding the flashlight close and trying to ignore the creak and moan of the trees in the wind.
Sam starts violently when he hears the first gunshot. At first he's relieved, trusting that soon Dad and Dean'll be back and they can head to a hotel, finally. Then he hears something that just might be panicked yells. His heart beats fast. He's sure that was Dean's voice. He strains his eyes to see out the window, but it's well and truly night. He can't make out a thing in the darkness. Adrenaline courses through his body.
Sam nervously clutches the shotgun in his cold and sweaty hands. He flinches when a scream breaks the silence. It sounds human. He thinks it might be Dad.
Sam knows he's to stay put. Dad gave an order and Winchesters didn't disobey orders. But he can't help imagining his brother and father bleeding their life out in the darkness, gasping their last breaths and leaving him utterly, utterly alone in the darkness. He can't let it happen.
Hands trembling, Sam unlocks the door of the car. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil..." he whispers in a shaky voice as he pulls the latch. The car light turns on automatically, blinding Sam, whose eyes have adjusted to the darkness. Sam grabs the gun and quickly scrambles out of the backseat, closing the door and following the wavering yellow light of his flashlight passed the protective circle John had so carefully constructed. He spies the tracks that his father and brother made no effort to hide and struggles gamely up the hill toward the gunshots.
John and Dean work their way quickly and quietly through the brush, stealthy and sure. Dean catches the sent of fresh blood and gags. John looks over in concern, catching a glimpse of Dean's pale face in the glow of the flashlight. "Steady," he cautions.
Dean pulls his guts into line, nodding at his father that he's okay. "Nasty," he hisses, swallowing hard. They're getting close to the Redcap's latest kill.
John suppresses an indulgent grin, holding up his hand for silence. He nods at Dean to pull out the text they dug from Pastor Jim's library while he prepares his weapons.
The thing comes unwillingly; they can hear it, spluttering and clicking in the darkness. Dean's shoulders tense at the sound, but his father's stance is sure. The twelve-year-old takes comfort in John's easy confidence. Dad would never let anything get to him, not while he was still drawing breath ...and nothing could kill John Winchester… so he felt okay as he concludes the summons, even excited as they step close enough to see the (literally) blood red hat glisten in the fierce moonlight.
No matter how many pictures or sketches they pour over before the hunt, the site of these unnatural monsters still makes their breath catch, though John quickly covers the fact. Dean watches in horrified fascination as the thing bends terribly over the pool of blood pressed from the victim's slit throat, lapping so the stream of dark liquid runs through its terrible gnashing teeth. Then the grotesque face suddenly turns its wide and hateful gaze directly to them.
It moves quick and Dean lets out a yell of warning. John swears, bringing up his weapon and firing quickly. The shot is loud and sure. It hits, but only momentarily slows the creature.
"Dean! The ritual!" John prompts, taking aim again and shooting.
The Redcap dodges at the last minute, supernatural speed shuddering time. John abandons the gun and grabs the machete from its sheath. He moves defensively in front of his son, meeting the onslaught with the ease of a seasoned hunter. But even though he's holding his own against the creature, it's too strong for his blows to do any permanent damage.
"Dean!" He yells again, but he's answered with a cry of pain that cuts through him. Whirling, he leaves an opening for the Red Cap to sink its poisonous teeth into his leg. John screams in pain and rage, seeing that he's made a miscalculation. Red Caps are supposed to be solitary, territorial. But somehow there's a second creature hissing and slicing at his son.
John's heart, which was already pounding hard as he struggled with his attacker, jumps when he hears Dean yell again. The boy has fallen, the ritual tumbling from his hand as he scrambles back. Dean tries to raise his gun at his attacker, face distorted with effort and fear.
Face gray and heart thumping, John works to put himself between Dean and the danger, leg going numb from the poison. He engages both Red Caps at once, working to lure them away from Dean. Out of the corner of his eye, John sees Dean scramble for the journal, voice high as he urgently begins the diminishing ritual.
"Vengeance is mine, sayth the lord," John bites out, causing one creature's tooth to fall out and the other to shrink back, hissing. The creatures get desperate and vicious, going after Dean who is sapping their strength with each word. John lodges a machete in the side of one of the creatures, throwing it back and away while the other goes for his heart; John twists but takes a long scratch in the side. He starts worrying about his mobility the poison begins to tingle as it mixes with his flowing blood.
The last thing John wants to see, the only thing worse than seeing Dean go down, was seeing Sammy appear over the rise of the land, big eyes wide and terrified, wearing Dean's old sweatshirt and holding a shotgun to his shoulder.
"Dean!" John hears his youngest son yell, eyes transfixed on where Dean is scrambling backward, reading the diminishing ritual. The father's breath catches painfully as he sees his Sammy run headlong into danger.
Dean's head snaps upward as he hears his brother screaming his name. "Sammy no!" he yells in horror as the boy puts himself in harms way.
"Get BACK!" John screams, praying to God that this time his orders will be obeyed.
Sam falters but, to his credit, he recovers quickly, diving for cover. Dean scrambles to him. Both boys are safe behind the hollow tree, breathing hard and a bit bruised, but alright.
"Dean! Finish it!" John yells, knowing it's their only chance. Dean quickly flips back, finding his place.
Sammy raises his weapon again. "Sammy GET DOWN!" John thunders with all the breath he has left, but the boy takes aim, firing at the closer of the two creatures just before Dean grabs him by the collar and forces him to saftey, not breaking his chant, though his eyes betray his older brother panic and worry.
Weakened by the ritual, the creatures are vulnerable to the shotgun. Despite being an insubordinate little idiot, Sammy has good aim. The Redcap screams and goes down. John finishes it off easily, turning his attention to the second. He shows no mercy.
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good," he admonishes, pushing the creature back and back, till finally he gets the opening he needs and swings hard and true, severing the head cleanly away.
John wipes the machete on the grass, groaning in pain. It sounds loud in the quiet of the clearing.
"DON'T move," he orders as the boys stir uncertainly. Dean nods, holding Sam tightly by the collar to make sure he obeys.
Digging a vial of holy water from his pack, John quickly treats his few wounds. The bleeding slows immediately and he sighs in relief as the sharp pain signals the return of feeling to the affected regions. He hobbles over to Dean, doing the same to the boy's few cuts and reassuring himself that the boy is not seriously hurt.
"Are you okay?" He asks urgently.
"I'm fine," Dean assures him.
"Sammy?" He says, turning roughly to see for himself that the boy is intact.
"It din't get me," Sam says fearfully. He's unnerved by his father's quiet intensity. "Dad?" he queries, looking up at him with big eyes.
John doesn't respond except to gather his son in a rough embrace, breathing in the boy's scent and being terribly gratefully for the uncomfortable wiggle Sam gives as he adjusts himself in his father's arms. Living and breathing still, thank God.
I'm gonna kill him, John thinks as the panic recedes. He releases Sam suddenly, passing the boy to Dean, who holds on tight.
John surges to his feet again, walking over to the two dead creatures. He piles them together and using his boot to clear the brush from around the bodies. The last thing he needs is a forest fire on top of everything else. He does the same for the remains of the last victim, lighting the body with only a little more ceremony.
Sam squirms, trying to get away from Dean. "Let go!" he protests.
"You're in enough trouble already," Dean hisses, harsh tone contradicting the tender, but firm grip he's got around Sam's waist. He pulls Sam practically onto his lap.
Sam huffs, but he knows he's going nowhere. The brothers huddle together, sharing warmth as the night wind picks up again.
In the light of the dying fires, John gathers their equipment. He glances up at the night sky, orienting himself and guessing the time.
When he's ready, he goes over to the boys. "Come on," he says simply and the boys scramble to their feet.
It's a quiet walk back to the car. Sam's disconcerted to find his father holding his hand tightly. He wants to protest, but one look at his father's determined face and he thinks better of the idea.
Guess the kid does have some sense ofself-preservation, John thinks grimly. It's dark and Sam is stumbling on the roots and brambles as he tries to keep up with Dad's longer legs. The third time it happens, John simply picks him up, barely breaking stride.
"I can WALK," Sam squeaks.
"Hush," John says calmly, ignoring the pout until they get to the car. He sets Sam on his feet and empties his load into the trunk. Dean follows suit, watching warily as his father starts to lecture at his younger brother.
"Do you have ANY IDEA…" John starts, cutting himself off abruptly and turning Sam by the arm instead, giving him 20 hard swats on his behind. "I told you to stay in the car!" he says fiercely.
Sam bursts into tears, hand going back to protect the sensitive area from further assault.
"Get in the car," John orders impassively. Sam scrambles tearfully to obey and John closes the door firmly behind him, learning tiredly for a brief moment against the car and letting out a deep breath.
He catches Dean's eye as the twelve-year-old closes the trunk and nods for him to join Sammy in the back. He moves around to the driver's seat.
As soon as Dean's in, Sammy squirms over to lay a miserable head in his lap, taking pressure off his warm and stinging behind, still hiccupping brokenly. Dean looks sympathetic, but just strokes the boy's longish curls like he was petting a cat, saying nothing.
John's coming down from the adrenaline high of the pure terror his son recently put him through and decides they would all be able to deal a little better if they had some food in their stomachs. He pulls into a Burger King drive-through.
"What do you boys want?" He asks.
"Cheeseburger." Dean responds.
Sam's looking mutinous as he snips, "nothing."
"Cheeseburger or chicken strips, bud?" John asks, not giving Sammy that option.
"I'M NOT HUNGRY!" Sam shouts, frustrated and close to tears again.
"We can pull over and take care of that attitude any time, young man," John threatens, jaw clenched in frustration. He catches Sam's eyes in the rearview mirror. Sam drops his gaze quickly, appalled by the prospect but maintaining a stubborn silence.
John orders him chicken strips and gets them all chocolate shakes. Low blood sugar makes them all cranky.
"Thanks Dad." Dean says quietly as John passes them back.
John drives for a while, willing the tension from his shoulder blades and take long draws of his milkshake.
When the drink are gone and there's nothing but wrappers and a few fries left of the meal, John pulls into a generic hotel parking lot, leaving the boys in the car while he goes to check in. Moments later he jogs back out with the keys, pulling up in front of their room.
The car falls silent as the engine dies. Sam's still refusing to look at him.
"Move it." John orders, feeling very much the bad guy. They each grab a bag and head in.
Once thet're settled, John sends Dean to wash up, crooking his finger at his youngest. Reluctantly, Sam sidles up to stand beside him, but he crosses his arms stubbornly over his chest, glaring at his Dad with all his might.
"Sam," John says, a warning in his voice. "I've had about enough of that attitude. You do not disobey me, young man."
Sammy starts crying hot, angry tears. "I was scared!" he protests, voice shaking.
"Sammy, I need you to trust that I know best how to keep this family safe. When I give you an order, I expect it to be followed. What did I tell you before I left tonight?"
"Stay in the car," Sam says, almost inaudibly.
"So what the h- On earth were you doing showing up in the middle of a hunt?!" John demands.
"But I shot that one!" Sam says, "I helped you!"
"And I told you to get down! You could have been killed, Sammy! Do you have any idea what that would do to me and your brother?!"
"I was just trying to help!" Sam whines tearfully.
"Samuel Winchester, if you ever disobey me on a hunt again, you won't be sitting down easily for a week, is that clear?"
Not wanting to prolong the lecture, or get a preview of what that would feel like, Sam mutters a weak "yes, sir," his bottom lip protruding slightly.
"And I don't want see in more of that attitude, young man," John says, gently rubbing away the pout with his thumb. "You'll show me some respect."
"Yes, sir," Sam sighs, but he allows John to pull him into a forgiving hug, leaning in to the embrace and inwardly resolving to be a good little soldier from now on.
Dean, who's been avoiding the scene, finally emerges from the bathroom, flopping down on the bed and turning on the TV while surreptitiously checking on Sammy from the corner of his eye, glad to see he's still in one piece.
Sam curls up next to him on the bed, watching the TV with eyes that are glassy from exhaustion while John goes in to start him a bath. When the water switches off, he obediently shucks his dirty clothes and carefully lowers his sore behind into the warm water. He smells like hotel shampoo when he's done, hair damp and eyes drooping. John inspects him briefly for dirt and ticks, planting a kiss on his forehead before sending both boys to bed, letting Dean keep the TV on till the end of the movie.
By the time the older boy clicks the set off, Sam's sleeping deeply, breathing heavy, regular breaths.
"'Night Dad," Dean says softly, settling down beside his sleeping brother.
John looks up, distracted from his notes on the social behavior of Red Caps. "Good night, kiddo," he replies affectionately.