Title - Death for Ghosts
Summary - In the dead of night, John takes his two young sons to a cemetery to salt and burn a corpse that prompts Sammy to ask the questions that he doesn't know how to answer.
Part of 'The Dark Horse' series
Molly: "What happens when you burn their bones?"
Sam: "Um, well, my dad used to say that was like death for ghosts, you know?" - Roadkill (2.16)
"Death for Ghosts"
Resting his boot on the shovel, John forced all of his weight down upon the tool. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his eleven-year-old struggling to dig up the earth but determination gleamed in his eyes. Leaning against the headstone, a Thundercats Lion-o action figure that his brother gave him that past Christmas clenched in his hand, his six-year-old son watched lazily as the two oldest Winchesters went about the trying work.
Small drops of rain dropped from the sky. Sighing heavily, John picked up pace. Dean had just gotten over a cold, and the chilly rain would do nothing but cause him to get sick again. The kid missed too much school as it was, somehow always finding a way to weasel his way out of going. John had a soft spot when it came to his boys. They just needed to turn on the sad, puppy-dog faces and he was a goner most of the time.
"Dean!" Sammy's voice squeaked as he stuck out his tongue to catch raindrops. "April showers bring May flowers. What do May flowers bring?"
"I dunno know. The bionic plague?"
John's head snapped towards his youngest who seemed rather off put by the wrong answer, his face scrunched up in confusion. It was no secret that the kid thought his father and brother knew everything, and to hear a wrong answer only made him question the infallible faith he held the older Winchesters with. John knew exactly what was coming next. Though the wrong answer puzzled him, there was a bigger problem that arose at Dean's smart-ass remark. Sammy would start to ask questions - not just one question but a whole slew of questions. Once the kid got started, he could prattle on like it was the Spanish Inquisition all over again.
"Daddy, what's a bi-on-nuck plague?"
"Dean meant bubonic plague."
Dean snorted from his right, and John had no doubt in his mind that his oldest was shaking his head. Sammy, on the other hand, formed an 'O' with his mouth even though there was no recognition in the kid's features. John prepared himself for the next question, already prepared to answer it.
"It's a disease that killed a lot of people in the past."
"How you get it?"
"Uh… rodents I think. Then once a rodent infected a human, a human could pass it on to other humans."
"Will we get the boo-bon-nick plague?"
"No, Sammy, don't worry about that."
The small boy nodded, clenching Lion-o tighter to his chest as he quickly surveyed the ground for any infectious rodents. The rain was starting to pick up, the dirt slowly becoming muddy. How the hell was he supposed to burn a corpse in the rain? They were more than halfway done digging up the damn thing. They couldn't very well turn back after all the work they put in. John concluded that they'd finish digging and wait out the rain. Hopefully it was just a small cloud passing.
"What do May flowers bring, Sammy?" John questioned to bring the boy out of his thoughts of being infected with the bubonic plague.
"Pil'rims," he responded with excitement filling his voice. "They came 'cross the ocean in boats: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria."
"Dude, that was Christopher Columbus," Dean interrupted. "The pilgrims came on the Mayflower."
If there was one thing that Dean could do to upset Sammy, it was to tell the kid he was wrong about something. It wasn't often when Dean would call the younger boy on a fact, but they were both tired and getting drenched by the second. All of their patience was wearing thin at the moment.
"Dean's right, Kiddo," John replied as his shovel hit the casket.
Sammy huffed, crossing his arms over his chest with a look of sheer disappointment written clearly across his face. The kid wasn't used to being wrong; and when he was, he pouted. John ignored the boy as he attempted wipe a mixture of rain and sweat from his forehead but only smeared it with more water. Motioning for Dean to stop, John walked over towards his youngest and plopped down next to him. The kid only huffed when his father sat down.
"Come on, Sammy, you can't be right all the time," John reasoned.
Reaching over, John hoisted the small boy off the ground and sat him down in his lap. Sammy buried himself into his father as though he half expected that he wouldn't get wet doing so. Dean took a seat next to John, leaning up against his father in the process. As the Winchester family huddled together, the rain started pelting down on them. The pile of dirt next to the dug grave almost instantly turned to mush.
"Why do rainbows 'pear after rain?" questioned Sammy as he squinted up at his father.
John sighed, the physics of the situation escaping him. He could remember the old Bible story from Sunday school when he was younger but drew a blank at the true reason. Part of him thought about making up a creative answer of some sort, but Sammy would take that as the truth. Another part didn't care at the moment. The rain was an unforeseen complication in a simple job, and it pissed him off.
"It's an olive branch," he decided to say for lack of anything else, "to say that the powers that be won't flood the Earth."
"A peace offering."
"Powers that be?"
"Ask Pastor Jim."
John wasn't one for religion and certainly didn't want to get into a conversation about it with his youngest. Sammy would have boatload full of questions that would last until the peak hours of the morning. He could get excited about questions like no one John had ever met and fail to fall asleep, keeping up the rest of his small family. The small boy slumped against his father's chest, obviously less than thrilled about the answer he received.
Within a good five minutes, the rain lifted. John knew that they had to act fast before another cloud passed overhead. Gently pushing his youngest off his lap, he patted his oldest on the thigh. Dean got up without question and grabbed the salt and gasoline from the bag. In the meantime, John jumped down to open the coffin.
"What are you doing?"
Looking up, John saw Sammy peering over the side of the hole while Dean grabbed the kid by the waistband on his jeans to ensure he didn't go tumbling in. John opened his hands as Dean tossed the salt down to his father. Quickly, he sprinkled the salt over every inch of the corpse.
"You see, Sammy, these bones are holding the ghost I'm hunting to earth. So we need to salt and burn the bones to get rid of it."
"Where do the ghost go after you salt 'n burn?"
John faltered, looking up at his youngest who was now dangerously leaning over the grave. He was sure that Sammy would have tumbled in by now if not for Dean holding him up. Clearing his throat, he tossed the salt towards the bag and reached up to the gasoline container Dean was holding out to him.
"Well, it's sort of like… death for a ghost," he responded as he poured the gas. "Once we finish salting and burning, the soul should be at rest."
Pulling himself out of the grave, John stood next to his boys as he fished in his pockets for the packet of matches. Dean reached down, hauling his brother off the soggy ground and into his arms. The small boy was covered in mud, rubbing his dirty hands on his brother's shirt.
"Where do the soul go?"
"No one knows for sure, Sammy," John told him as he stroked the match on the matchbox. "Though I'm sure Pastor Jim would love to tell you what he thinks."
Flicking the lit match into the grave, the three Winchesters watched as the body burst into flames. Sammy turned away, burying his face in Dean's shoulder blade. The kid didn't like fire, and John couldn't help but feel his chest tighten as the thoughts of Mary burning on the ceiling filled his mind.
"What you think?" Sammy murmured.
"I like to believe they go to a better place… that they find peace."
John thought of Mary, wondering if there was such a thing as heaven. If there were, he was certain that his wife was there. Glancing over to his sons, he stretched his hand over to brush his youngest drenched locks of hair before wrapping his arm around Dean's shoulder. Pulling both his boys close to him, he watched the flames lick the flesh of the corpse.
Sammy twisted his neck to look at his father, his hazel eyes shining up at him. John swallowed hard, remembering a conversation that he had with his youngest a couple years back when Sammy questioned where Mary went. He questioned what death and heaven were.
"Yeah," Dean responded, "just like heaven."
"Dean, what heaven look like?"
The little boy's sole attention was on his older brother who shifted the small weight in his arms. John watched as Dean stared down at the grave, his face not revealing what was really going through his mind. Brow furrowing, John kept his own thoughts to himself. He knew Dean no longer believed in God or angels or heaven - he could remember as clear as day when he tried to comfort his son about Mary's death. At the first mention of angels, the tight-lipped boy voiced his thoughts on angels not being real. To Dean, once was what his first line of protection turned into nothing but a façade.
"I dunno," Dean stated. "The opposite of hell I guess."
"Dean," the little boy reverted into his whispering voice which was actually louder than his talking voice, "did Daddy salt 'n burn Mommy?"
John could feel his heart pounding wildly against his chest as the arm around his son's shoulders dropped to his side. Quickly looking away from his sons, he noted that the body was burned. Hitting the casket closed with the shovel, he started to pile the mud onto the coffin. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see Dean's face scrunch up.
"No," he spoke so softly that John didn't even know if he heard the kid or if it was just the wind.
"Mommy's ghost isn't dead?" Sammy whispered.
"Your Mom didn't need to be salted and burned," John spoke up well aware that there was a slight cracking quality to his voice.
"Daddy, no ear-dropping!" the kid exasperated as he shot his brother a guilty, apologetic look.
"Eavesdropping," corrected John.
Packing the mound of mud with the back of his shovel, John swallowed hard. He grabbed the bag and the discarded shovel. Motioning for his boys to follow him, the Winchester men walked towards the Impala. While John placed the tools in the trunk, Dean situated his younger brother into the backseat. Raking a hand through his damp hair, John vaguely wondered when Sammy would stop asking so many questions. It was one thing for him to be curious about some things, but everything caused him to have burning, never-ending questions.
Hauling his frame into the driver's seat, John glanced at his boys snuggled together in the backseat of the car. He turned the key and his mind wandered to Mary. Where did she go when she died? The juvenile question ate away at him causing his throat to tighten and the prickling sensation to itch at his eyes. Pulling out of the cemetery, John thought if there was any chance that Mary still resided in their old home - a lost soul looking for her children and husband. He quickly pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind. No, Mary was at rest… somewhere.
I watched Roadkill last night, and I couldn't help but write a tag where Sammy asks John what happens to the ghosts. For the full effect of the story, I suggest you read Achilles' Heel and Lies the Crown as there are references to both stories. Do review and tell me what you think. I've never written a tag before so I'm sort of on the fence about it.