Just a quick little oneshot that was written in response to prompt 27 at foundficspn over on LJ. You should see the creepy photo that is the prompt.
Katriel1987 did the beta work for me, and it was much appreciated.
Forcing the Break
"What you've got...," Dean paused for effect, took a swig of beer, indulged in the dramatics until Sam wanted to yell What? Just say it, "...are haunted baubles."
Sam nodded thoughtfully in support of Dean's declaration and accepted the pronouncement without any qualms. There hadn't been an opportunity to confer, so he hadn't been sure what Dean was going to say, but based on the information they had, haunted baubles sounded about right. Ridiculous – but right.
Sam shifted his gaze from his brother to their companion, a man of about 50, chunky, balding, sagging, experiencing all the unfortunate effects middle age brought. He was a potential client, to whom they had been recommended by Jerry Panowski, their United Britannia friend.
The man shifted uncomfortably in his seat and regarded the brothers dubiously. "You're shitting me?"
Dean gave a short laugh that was just this side of offended. "Hey, you're the one with the Twilight Zone photo. You wanted our opinion and that's it. Haunted baubles."
There was silence for a moment, the man waiting to see if Dean would burst out laughing and say Had you going, didn't I? He had the cautious look of someone who thought he was being made a fool of but wasn't entirely sure.
"Haunted baubles?" the man repeated, just to be sure he'd heard right.
"Yep," Dean replied casually, and took another swig of beer.
The man peered at the photo in his hand, date stamped for two day ago, which showed a child, his child, dead for a decade, smudged against a Christmas tree background. He lingered on it for a moment before sighing heavily.
"Haunted baubles." There was resignation in the man's tone, a why not? inflection. Nothing about the situation was reasonable; what was one more thing? "So what do I do?"
"Burn the baubles."
The suggestion produced an emphatic response. "No, I can't. My son made those baubles; no way my wife will let them go. It's like a Christmas tradition, decorating the tree with the baubles he made."
Dean gave a dismissive shrug and said, "Then you have a choice: burn the baubles or live with the inconvenience. There's no other way to deal with it."
Sam winced at how glibly Dean said that. It was a pretty sensitive subject they were talking about. The guy's young son had been killed years ago when knocked off his bike and his spirit had obviously clung to the family because ever since they had been experiencing strange, paranormal incidents which became more frequent and pronounced around Christmas. It was a predicament that deserved some compassion.
Sam could understand Dean trying not to get emotion involved. If you dwelt on where spirits came from, what caused them to become restless, then you'd spend your life in empathetic misery, because there was always a tragic underlying story. Better to deal with the what and not get involved in the why. But still, calling it an inconvenience was going a bit far, and Sam decided that maybe he should take over the conversation from here.
"We would do it for you," Sam interjected, his voice soft and caring. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table to assume the lead, saw Dean lean back, happy for the mantle to shift. "I mean, it's what we do. I'm not sure how much Jerry told you, but we deal with this sort of thing all the time."
Their companion's shoulders slumped a little in relief. "Would it have to be all of the baubles?" he asked softly, hesitantly, a pause on all in silent plea. "Could we keep just one?"
"No, it would have to be all of them."
It pained Sam to give that answer. He wanted to show some mercy, he didn't want to strip the man of his precious possessions, the most poignant reminders of his lost son. But you couldn't be sentimental about these things, and you couldn't do a job halfway; it was all or nothing.
The man nodded grimly. Thought about it for a moment, was clearly struggling with it. "It's our son," he explained, a faltering smile on his lips, a tremble in his voice. "As creepy and weird as it is seeing him in flashes, having stuff move around...it's our son. And I…" He let the sentence hang, with a sad shake of his head.
Love him? Miss him? Like having him around? However that sentence was going to end, Sam felt his throat tighten and emotion well in his chest. He could understand the man's conflict, the indecisiveness that would come from experiencing disturbing incidents every holiday season that needed to stop, but not wanting to sever that tie. Sam could imagine how hard it would be to force the break with someone you loved. Even knowing the spirit was tormented, there would be comfort in having it near, a last vestige of the loved one's life to hold onto.
"Your son's lost, Mr. Field."
"Peter. Your son didn't want to leave you when the accident happened, and he grabbed onto those baubles as something special to keep him here. Now he can't let go, he doesn't know how." Sam's words were gentle and careful, information presented with sympathy. "You said yourself, the incidents are getting more frequent, starting to get dangerous. I think Josh is getting frustrated. I think if he could cross over, he would. He just needs someone to show him the way."
It all sounded so benign, so mild and kind, like they were going to take the young boy's hand and point him in the right direction, wave to him as he moved into the light. Sam didn't want to mention that the reality usually involved screeching displeasure, vicious attacks, shotgun blasts and ducking for cover.
While Field pondered his options, Sam flicked a gaze at his brother and noticed that Dean's attention was wandering lazily around the bar. It struck Sam that Dean was trying to distract himself, trying to project indifference. This was something that could affect Dean, a father struggling to do the right thing, make the right choice for his son, and he was trying not to let it.
There was an awkward silence at the table while their companion considered what to do, whether or not he wanted to take things further with the brothers. It stretched over a few minutes until Field finally asserted, "I'm going to have to think about it."
He pushed his chair back with an abrupt determination and reached out a hand to Sam. "Thank you for meeting with me. I'll call you if I want to go ahead."
Sam stood to accept the handshake with a nod and a polite smile.
Dean took the outstretched hand with a grave expression, dark eyes, tight mouth and a steady gaze, which conveyed This is not going to get better, this is not going to get easier, you need to end this NOW before things get out of hand. He didn't say the words, didn't want to tell the man his business, it was an emotional issue, and Dean wasn't going to try to argue their companion into a course of action, but his opinion was laid bare on his face.
Field's eyes lingered on Dean. A wry grin and small tilt of the head indicated he understood the message, and almost as if Dean had said something, Field stated, "I know what I need to do. I'm just not sure that I can do it."
Field reached into his back pocket, took out his wallet, and produced money enough to cover what they had drunk, and another round if the boys felt so inclined. Then he tipped his head to them with a taut smile and strode for the exit.
As they settled back into their seats, Dean commented, "That would truly suck."
"Yes it would," Sam agreed wholeheartedly. And after a pause, he couldn't help asking the question. "Would you do it? If it was Mom?"
Immediately, Sam felt cruel for asking, because he knew how much Dean missed their mother. Even 24 years after her death, there was a latent, unspoken yearning, and giving Dean a hypothetical choice between having their mother around as a spirit or forcing her into the next world was like picking at a scab.
Dean regarded his brother thoughtfully, considering the question, his face guarded, revealing nothing. Rather than answer, he countered with, "Would you? If it was me?"
The question knocked the wind out of Sam. He had expected Dean to pose the dilemma in terms of Jessica, and had already been pondering what he would do if he had to choose between having Jess around in spiritual form or moving her on. That scenario caused conflict enough, but inserting Dean into the equation took it to a whole new level.
He knew the right answer, knew he should say Yes, I would, because people weren't meant to linger in limbo. But he also knew that when Dean had been a spirit, teetering on the verge of death after the car accident, Sam had found solace in still being able to communicate with him. He'd been consoled by Dean's spiritual presence, and at the time, having Dean around in that form seemed a much better proposition than not having him around at all.
"How about you just cross over nicely and don't put me in that situation," Sam stated, but the humour fell flat. With Dean's death pending, it was a little too close to the bone, especially when they weren't talking about Dean crossing over to somewhere pleasant. It all left a bitter taste in Sam's mouth, and he was sorry he had started the conversation.
"Yeah, I don't know if I could do it either," Dean replied quietly, a hint of shame in his voice. He picked at the label on his beer bottle and refused to meet his brother's eyes.
Sam wasn't sure if Dean was imagining their Mom or Sam as the hypothetical spirit, but either way it was a surprising admission, both in its unexpected honesty and because Dean was pretty cut and dried about their business. Sam couldn't remember any occasion where his brother had wanted to leave something supernatural alone. It spoke volumes about Dean's familial needs that he would even consider making a decision that was so at odds with his beliefs.
"Just don't attach yourself to Christmas decorations," Dean continued dryly, his mouth quirking at the corners. "Because I'd burn that crap in a second."