AN: I meant to update this story earlier, but then GISHWHES happened.
"I dunno, Dean," voiced out Sam, nervous.
After a quite fruitful round of trick-or-treating, not to mention gorging on half of their loot to lighten the load they were all carrying, the three of them found themselves standing at the foot of a mellow-sloped hill. At the top of the hill was a formidable three-story house, which was basking in its own unnerving solitude and chilly silence. There were no other people around, and somehow the night was blacker in this area, as if the lack of kids giggling in their sparkly outfits and bright neon lights turned the atmosphere aloof, almost vindictive.
It was amazing how many stories, lore and gossip a person can pick up on the streets, especially during Halloween when everyone was up and about and more than willing to share anything that was even remotely scary. While passing by the town hall, Dean overheard some older kids talk about a house that had been abandoned since the late eighteenth century, and how 'weird stuff' happened there occasionally.
He heard a similar story when he, Sam, and Conner were trick-or-treating near a village gazebo, namely from a guy in his sixties complaining (very loudly) to a woman roughly his age about a house that should have been torn down decades ago because of 'health hazards'. Once Dean managed to pinpoint the location, he had to keep his anticipation hidden from Sam and Conner as he opted to surprise them. Basically, they worked their way through house after house to collect candy while Dean secretly led the others to the direction of the mysterious house.
Now they were here and Dean's companions were not exactly thrilled about this discovery.
"Don't be such a chicken, Sammy." said Dean.
"I am not a chicken!" huffed Sam.
"Sam is correct. He is dressed up like a moose right now." said Conner, who was still sometimes a bit too naïve for his own good.
Regardless, Dean walked up to the tiny front gate that barely reached his neck and pushed it open carefully. Its hinges squeaked but the noise it made lasted only for a second as the gate retreated quietly the rest of the way. Smiling, Dean glanced behind him and gestured for Sam and Conner to follow him inside the property, which they halfheartedly did.
"Do we really have to do this?" whined Sam.
"It's not Halloween until you go in a haunted house. It's, like, a rule or something." said Dean, sidestepping a tangle of dying ivy. The plants must have been nice and healthy when the house had been in its prime, but it would seem that the years were unkind to them as practically every bush and patch were either dead or quickly dying.
"But we got candy!" reasoned Sam, holding up his paper bag where his precious sweets were.
"Having a sugar rush isn't all there is to Halloween. You gotta have a bit of excitement to it too." said Dean, and if his grin did not tell them that he was ecstatic about this, then the foolhardy enthusiasm in his voice ought to convince them.
Conner spoke up when they were halfway up the hill. "What are we supposed to do here?"
"Explore, find some awesome junk… maybe get someone to pee their pants." At his last words, Dean stole a glance at his brother, which Sam returned by throwing him a nasty bitch face.
Soon, they reached the front door. The wood that had been used to build it was currently rotting in several places like a child's tooth after one really wild Halloween. Yet, despite its dilapidated state, it nonetheless appeared imposing, as if it had grown accustomed to keeping whatever horrors the house had inside and not out.
"You sissies ready?" asked Dean.
Sam said nothing and simply put on the best brave face he could, which was not all that remarkable given his cuddly moose suit.
Meanwhile, Conner briefly pursed his lips, and maybe there was something about wearing the Superman costume because he really looked like he was prepared to confront what the house had in store. "Ready, though I dislike being called a 'sissy'." he stated.
"Then it's time to prove you aren't one, huh? That goes for you too, Sam." said Dean.
Another bitch face, followed by his brother sticking his tongue out at him.
Dean dismissed Sam's trivial gestures and tried to work the doorknob. He expected it to be locked, or to at least fall off due to the surrounding decay, but miraculously the door swung open without so much as a stubborn drag. It was pitch dark inside; Dean turned on his flashlight and the small beam of light it projected was almost instantly consumed at how thick the gloom was.
For a second, he thought this might actually be a stupid idea. Then he cast that notion aside because it was Halloween. Besides, he figured this would serve as a good training exercise so that he can help his dad on the job some day; he did not want to stay indoors with babysitting duty for the rest of his life.
Dean went inside the house, and in his peripheral vision he saw Conner come up on his left. Pretty soon, the shadow of a short person with antlers stretching out on the floor implied that Sam finally went in as well. Now that all three of them were inside, Dean could get a decent look of what was on the first floor:
In front of them was what had been the living room or a lounge area. Plush sofas gathered around a fireplace were covered in many layers of dust and cobwebs; a coffee table was in the center and remained standing in spite of the fact that two of its legs were on the brink of collapsing. A head of some ill-fated, and now unidentifiable, creature was mounted on the fireplace, which appeared more unnerving since its eyes were gone and its mouth hung loosely agape. Beyond the living area was a space that resembled a kitchen.
The three of them made their way further inside, wary of creating any noise. All was quiet for the first couple of seconds, then Dean gave a start when he heard something fall to the floor. He looked behind him and saw that Sam had tripped on one of the loose floorboards.
"Sorry." mumbled Sam sheepishly. Conner bent down to help him up.
"Way to make a stealthy entrance." said Dean. He shone his flashlight around the place and added, smirking playfully, "You probably woke up the ghosts."
Sam went rigid as he got back on his feet. "Ghosts? You didn't say there were any ghosts." he protested.
"What kind of a haunted house doesn't have any ghosts?" replied Dean.
"A nice kind?" offered Sam.
Rolling his eyes, Dean continued exploring the house, and eventually Conner and Sam joined him seeing as they had nothing else to do here.
Suddenly, the front door slammed shut.
For what felt like an agonizingly long moment, Dean, Sam, and Conner were frozen in place while the deafening echoes faded out. None of them said anything, nor did anyone tear their gaze from the front door that was presently blocking their view of the outside world.
"What did I tell ya? You woke them up." said Dean to his brother, trying to lighten up the situation.
Sam stared at Dean, then back to the door, and again at Dean. "That was… I didn't mean to!" he cried out.
"There's no turning back now." said Dean, inflecting a dark and dramatic tone to his voice to give off a sinister effect. Sam held his paper bag in front of him like a shield and his grip on it visibly tightened.
"Come on, let's check the place out before the other ghosts are woken up." said Dean casually as if he was simply taking a look at the new neighborhood.
"They wake each other up?" asked Sam, a tremble in his voice.
"The more, the scarier." said Dean in a singsong manner.
For the record, the reasonable part in Dean's brain was poking at his hunter instincts and urging him to go into survival mode or, more preferably, to go out of the house so he could prevent anything else from happening. But the thrill was exciting him, and if he turned tail now, how could he ever be brave enough to accompany his dad on a real hunt?
After all, this was the perfect opportunity to scare the living daylights out of Sam, and even Conner.
"Hey, I wonder if the walls would ooze slime, blood, or a gazillion flesh-eating beetles?" said Dean to no one in particular, but loud enough to be heard by both Sam and Conner, who had wandered off to different sections of the place.
Conner muttered something about how impractical it would be for a wall to spew out liquid on its own, and how the structure was not ideal for so many insects. Then he went to investigate a particularly intriguing dust bunny in the corner. Sam, on the other hand, appeared intimidated by the walls and backed away from them, choosing to explore the middle of the room instead.
Against his better judgment, Dean decided to kick it up a notch. "You know, I heard a story about these kids who played hide and seek in an old abandoned house, kinda like this one." he began, pretending to check out one of the sofas.
"The guy who was 'it' hid in a closet, but when he closed the door a really heavy box fell on his head and knocked him out." He caught a glimpse of Sam listening intently to his story and he was, once again, clutching his paper bag tightly to his chest. "The other kids looked for him for hours, but when it got late, they decided to call it quits and left, thinking maybe the other guy was being a douche and already went ahead without them, just for kicks."
This time, Conner turned his attention away from the head on the fireplace and focused on what Dean was saying. "Days passed, years passed… but the kid was never found." Dean went on.
He started to encircle his two companions, and as he continued with his tale, his every movement unconsciously drew Sam and Conner closer together, much like prey being herded to one location.
"Eventually, a couple went into the old house, looking for a new place to live or something, and they sorta liked the garden outside so they thought the place was a worth the shot." said Dean. "So they checked the place out. Things were pretty much alright – a little dusty, but alright… until they got to a certain closet."
Sam and Conner were next to each other at this point, and they were somewhat boxed in by the sofas around them. "You know what they saw when they opened the closet?" asked Dean quietly.
The two of them did not say a word as they hung desperately onto Dean's. They waited with bated breath, their eyes huge and hungry for the answer…
Dean promptly switched his flashlight off and yelled, "A SQUIRREL!"
There was screaming and the sound of a person or two falling over, and scrambling in the dark was heard afterward. Dean turned his flashlight back on just in time to see his panicking little brother sprawled all over Conner, who had his flashy red cape unceremoniously thrown over his head. If there had ever been an opportune moment to laugh at someone's expense, this would be it.
"Oh man… you should… you should've seen the look… on your faces! Priceless!" wheezed Dean in between fits of mirth.
"That wasn't funny, Dean!" screamed Sam, the beginnings of tears brimming in his eyes.
"It was awesome!" said Dean, leaning against a sofa to steady himself. His sides were starting to hurt from laughing so hard, but there was no way he regretted what he pulled off. "I don't even know who was more freaked out, you or Conner."
As if tugged by invisible strings, Conner shuffled to his feet and let Sam slip to the floor. "I wasn't scared." defended Conner.
"Right, sure… keep telling yourself that when you see yourself in a mirror." snickered Dean. Conner's usual flustered look was nothing compared to how he appeared now; it was as if he had gone through a hundred rollercoaster rides while hanging upside-down the entire time.
By the time Dean had recovered, Conner and Sam were glaring at him at virtually the same intensity. "Okay, I'm good. I swear, no more fooling around." he said, lifting his hands in a semi-genuine motion of cooperation.
Later, after a bit of apologizing on Dean's part, they were exploring the second floor. They learned that this was where the bedrooms and bathroom were, and while those were the places that were supposed to be holding some valuable or interesting junk, the most fascinating item they found in the rooms, and in the whole house so far, was a pen collection. Plus, with Dean 'behaving himself,' things got boring fairly quickly.
All of a sudden, Sam, who was somewhere on Dean's left, gave out a yelp. Upon facing him, Dean saw that Sam was holding his bottom quite protectively as if his moose tail had been pulled a little too roughly.
"Dean, quit it." said Sam irately.
"I'm not doing anything." replied Dean.
Other than opening drawers in the latest bedroom they were in, he had not even touched a single object, let alone Sam or his moose tail, both of which were beyond his reach. He surveyed the room they were in, although no matter how bright his flashlight was or how much he sharpened his vision, the darkness in the house was overpowering. It was impossible to see every detail, every nook and cranny of the place unless it was daylight. For all he knew, a horde of gigantic mutant spiders could be hiding in the corners and cracks in the plaster.
Five minutes passed and nothing happened. As they were leaving the room, with Dean bringing up the rear and shutting the door behind him, a faint, eerie sound was heard, sort of like someone moaning from afar. The sound came from nowhere specific, yet it succeeded in bringing chills down their spines.
"Dean, you said you'd stop!" said Sam.
"That wasn't me!" said Dean honestly. Despite his claim, Conner and Sam were staring down at him dubiously. Sure, he could not really blame them, but would it kill them to believe him this one time?
Sam walked along the remainder of the hallway, Conner not far behind. Sighing, Dean trudged after them with a mixture of frustration and paranoia. There was something going on here, something that was messing with them, and Dean certainly was not responsible for any of the recent happenings.
They were approaching the last room on the second floor, albeit the journey there was slightly more troublesome since the floorboards creaked louder, like it was an effort to alert their presence to the entire house. Dean did not know if he was imagining things or not, but he could have sworn that there was a shift in the darkness, a bare ripple of movement deep in the folds of the shadows.
He picked up the pace so that he was as close as possible to Conner and Sam to keep a better eye on them. Surreptitiously, Dean reached for one of the weapons he had stashed into his makeshift utility belt…
One of the paintings hanging on the right side of the wall fell to the dusty floor without warning, mere inches from Sam's feet. If he had gone further much sooner, Sam could have suffered from a nasty head injury.
"I don't wanna explore anymore. I'm going back to the motel." whimpered Sam, gradually backing away from the fallen painting before breaking into a jog for the stairs.
Not wanting them to become separated in a haunted house (which was the biggest rule that should never be broken), Dean tapped Conner's arm in a gesture to follow him as he raced after his little brother. "Sam, I swear, I'm no– " he began.
Dean skidded to a halt a few centimeters from where Sam was standing totally still, right before he reached the landing of the stairs. The beam from his flashlight fell forward, which revealed a figure on their left side, underneath the threshold of the first room on the second floor. It was a man with tattered clothing and skin that was paler and sicklier than moonlight shining through a grimy window. A dark substance coated the tips of his fingers all the way up to his elbows; something reflective ominously glistened in his left hand.
The man was grinning at them.
"I do believe Dean is telling the truth." whispered Conner at such a low voice that, regardless of how close they were huddled up, was extremely difficult to hear. Yet, at the same time, it was like the sound of a twig snapping inside a lion's den.
The man shuffled toward them. One step… Then another… And another…
Suddenly, he was hurtling straight toward them.
"RUN!" Dean shouted, practically shoving Sam and Conner down the stairs.
Their attacker – a ghost, Dean supposed, because what else could it be? – narrowly missed grabbing Dean's head as he ducked and crawled out of range. While the ghost recovered and turned almost instantly, Dean snatched a handful of the salt he brought with him and hurled it; his projectile landed squarely on the ghost's ugly face.
He could not savor his victory for long as he had to catch up with his companions. Dean was the only one of them who had had training in hunting monsters, which made him qualified and responsible for the group's protection. He needed to get them out of here fast, and now he felt like such an idiot for even dragging them to this house in the first place. If one of them ever got hurt because of him, or worse…
Whatever thoughts Dean was having vanished at the sight of another ghost standing at the bottom of the stairs, blocking their way. This one was larger than the first ghost, and though he did not wear a manic smile, his mouth was contorted into a perpetual, agonized scream with nothing coming out. There was a long, metallic object sticking out of his chest and he was aiming its tip right at them, as if waiting to skewer the three of them.
Dean threw the remaining amount of salt at him. He intended to reach for his army knife afterward but, in the confusion, pulled out his can of Silly String at him instead. Since he could not afford to waste a second, he sprayed the ghost with a powerful jet of Silly String and hoped that that would at least distract it.
Some of the Silly String made its way into the ghost's mouth, causing it to moan and stagger back. Dean took this opportunity and hauled Sam and Conner away.
"This way! Come on!" he yelled.
They were halfway to the front door when a third ghost separated himself from the shadows and stood in between them and freedom. For a moment, he appeared to be the most normal of the ghosts they had encountered. Then, Dean's flashlight shone at his face directly and it was revealed that his eye sockets were gaping black holes.
"Dean!" screamed Sam as the ghost managed to latch onto his plastic antlers.
"Get away from my brother!" Dean sprayed more Silly String, aiming for the eyeholes, and the ghost let go. After a couple of more erratic spurts, the ghost stumbled into a lamp and the path toward the door was cleared. "Sam, Conner, go out the front! I'll hold them off!" hollered Dean, pulling out the Batarang from his utility belt.
The other two ghosts were approaching them now, and Dean got into a stance that told them that he was ready to fight. There was a deluge of fear that was threatening to flood his entire system, but he kept it as far down as he could. He cannot let the ghosts know that he was just about ready to crap his pants in terror; most of all, he cannot let Conner and Sam know that he was on the verge of breaking down.
Somewhere behind him, he heard Sam yelling distraughtly, "Dean! It won't open! Dean!"
Dean retreated a step, and in his peripheral vision he saw that Conner was using his full body weight to wrench the door open, but the hinges would not so much as budge.
The ghosts were advancing on them, trying to corner them.
Dean's eyes madly searched for an exit route. His gaze landed on a window near the fireplace. "Out the window! Hurry!" he ordered.
Conner let Sam run ahead of him, even utilizing his red cape to act as a sort of shield that would offer him what safety it could. Then, lightning-fast, Conner picked up half a brick that had fallen from the fireplace ages ago and tossed it at the animal head mounted on the wall. The result was the head plummeting to the floor, a few centimeters away from one of the incoming ghosts, which allowed them a few precious seconds to get some distance.
The feat would have impressed Dean but now the other ghosts were gaining on them. He threw his Batarang at another one of the ghosts, though he immediately had to look away and focus on running so he was not sure it if did any damage or not.
After what seemed like a century of scurrying in the dark, the three of them reached the window. Conner tried to wedge it open but it stayed firm; Dean and Sam added their strength to it but, even with the three of them exercising all their might, the window proved to be stubborn. In a desperate attempt, Dean threw the weight of his shoulder onto the glass yet all that achieved was an agonizing hit on his bicep. There was not even a sliver of a crack on the window.
When Dean recovered from the flash of pain, he saw that the ghosts had boxed them against the wall. They had gotten so close that not even fleeing was an option anymore. Sam whimpered and hid behind Dean, clutching his black cape tightly. He searched his belt for anything, anything at all, he could use to defend themselves, and came up with nothing. His can of Silly String was empty, he was out of salt, and the rest of the things he had would be worthless in fending off a ghost, let alone three.
Just when he was starting to really panic, Dean felt something solid being thrust into his hands. Conner had given him one of those pokers employed in tending to the fireplace. It was as thin and brittle as a newborn branch; it would not even crack open the surface of a papier-mâché piñata.
"What am I supposed to do with this thing?" asked Dean. He might as well use the flashlight as a weapon since it would pack more of a punch than the fragile rod.
Conner wielded another poker and was unwaveringly staring at the ghosts. "It's made of iron. It should repel them." he said.
As the ghosts towered over them, as Conner and Dean brandished their weapons and prepared to strike, the sound of someone's voice – female and irritated – put a stop to the struggle.
"Hey! What the hell is going on down there?"
Everyone – Dean, Conner, Sam, and the three ghosts – looked up to see a girl standing at the top of the stairs, appearing very displeased. She was wearing a black cat costume and even had her face in full feline makeup, yet there was something about the way she held herself that made it clear that she was in her late teens. She scowled at the six of them before pointing a clawed finger at one of the ghosts.
"Jaime, what are you doing?" she demanded.
The one with the empty eyeholes turned away from the wall to face her. "Just a bit of fun." he – Jaime – answered cheekily.
"We got ourselves some trespassers here, Megan. We're dealing with them." said the ghost with the huge mouth, which was not really huge at all since it was apparently makeup.
"This is our hideout, not some low class horror show." Megan, the girl in the cat costume, retorted.
Another girl came up behind Megan. Her skin was painted in a garish green hue and her hair was in a crazy up-do; she was also carrying a bottle of what Dean recognized was beer. "Hmm, we could actually pull that off. We could show that to – "
"Not now, Donna." interrupted Megan rather impatiently. She returned her attention downstairs. "Let the kids go. And for God's sake, Tim, tell me you weren't about to bite down on the moose's leg." she sighed.
Dean glanced to his side to find that one of the ghosts – Tim – was actually near Sam's left ankle. He protectively pushed his brother inward so that he was completely hidden behind Dean and Conner's capes.
Chuckling, Tim straightened himself up. "I wasn't gonna hurt 'im. Not really. Besides, Wally's the one who got crap on his face." he said, jerking his thumb to the ghost with the creepy grin. Dean recalled he was the one who unfortunately collided with the handful of salt.
As if still bothered by that fact, Wally grumpily crossed his arms. "So are we just gonna let them go or…?"
"What, you wanna play tea parties with them next?" asked Megan, sarcasm dripping from her voice. She was descending the stairs now, and when it was obvious that she had her eyes on Dean, Conner, and Sam, the 'ghosts' backed off.
Megan knelt down and smirked. "You pipsqueaks not suffering from a major heart attack, are you?" she asked.
From this proximity, Dean could smell the liquor from her breath, and how it was still warm and fresh. If he had to guess, Megan and her friends were one of those groups of teenagers who find a secluded place to hole up in so that they could drink and do whatever without anybody bothering them, like the police or annoying neighbors. Evidently, they were here in this house first, and the reason that they were not seen earlier was probably because they were hanging out in the attic. The commotion the three of them had made (Sam and Conner's screams in particular) must have notified the 'ghosts' and they thought it would be a swell idea to lock doors, make paintings fall, and essentially scare the living crap out of them.
"We're fine." answered Conner impassively.
Megan was a bit surprised that he was the one who answered and, frankly, so was Dean. Nonetheless, she snickered and a hint of a playful fire sparked her eyes. "'Least you were fighting back. That's good. The world needs more fighters." she stated.
She reached for something behind her and Dean realized that she actually had a backpack with her. Seconds of rummaging ticked by until Megan soon had a bag of jumbo marshmallows in her hand. "Here. I dunno, for your troubles, I guess. The guys won't be bothering you anymore." she said, sneaking a glance at the 'ghosts' who were rejoining Donna upstairs.
It took a while for Dean to register that Megan was offering the marshmallows to them and, momentarily, he considered shoving the bag at her face for all the anxiety her friends had caused. Since the atmosphere in the house was calming down, Dean felt like he was such a moron for not being able to distinguish a real ghost from a fake ghost. He should have known better. If he did, they might have avoided the running and the embarrassment. What would his dad say if he ever learned of this fiasco?
He snapped out of his thoughts when Megan was shaking the bag in front of him, as if to catch the attention of a befuddled animal. Not wanting to prolong this any longer, Dean snatched the marshmallows from her a bit too roughly and fixed his expression in what he hoped was a stony, dignified glare.
"You three oughta get going. If you leave now, you might still catch that cheesy movie with the ghost who has no friends, Caspian or whoever he is." said Megan. She was trying to lighten the mood but it was not really working; they were tired and going their own separate ways seemed to be the best idea in the world about now.
"Thanks." said Sam, who was peeking out of Dean and Conner's capes. Dean was uncertain if his brother was thanking Megan for the marshmallows or for the tip on the Casper show.
Either way, it was time they left. Dean motioned for the front door and he, Conner, and Sam were peeling themselves off the wall they had backed into and marched toward the exit with what remained of their self-worth. Dean did not let go of his iron poker, just in case, and he noticed that Conner still had his as well.
"Oh hey, Batman!" Megan called out. It took a second for Dean to comprehend that she was addressing him. "I never heard the ending of your story. What did they really see in the closet?" she asked when Dean turned around.
Story? Did she mean the one he told Sam and Conner earlier? If that was so, then apparently everybody knew that they came into the house even before all the screaming and bickering. "I dunno… I was making most of that stuff along." he replied, shrugging.
Megan leaned against one of the sofas, a smile on her lips. "You know what would be really scary? If the couple finds the dead bodies of all the kid's playmates in the closet 'cuz they left him behind to die there. And now that kid's spirit will haunt that house forever in a never-ending game of hide and seek." she said.
Dean, Sam, and Conner stared at her.
A giggle slipped past Megan's mouth. "Well, toodles!" she said, giving them a lofty wave goodbye.
The instant she went out of the beam of Dean's flashlight, they made a frantic dash to the door.
No one really wanted to go back to the motel for a while, where it was dark and lonely and awfully quiet. So while it was still Halloween, and the streets had yet to run out of people in ridiculous costumes being as loud and conspicuous as humanly possible, the three of them camped out in the grassy fields of the town park.
In this place, the night was lit up by strings of lanterns that emitted a soft, pumpkin-colored glow, making the park appear as if it was composed of cozy pools of firelight. The trees were decorated with multiple garlands of fake candy corn, and the streetlights were covered with tinted blue paper in a cheerful effort to add a sense of surrealism to the park.
Parents were carrying their children over their shoulders after the trick-or-treating had worn their legs out, but clearly not their energy since they were animatedly recalling the highlights of the night. Other people were shouting, not because they were in any danger, but because their friends were chasing them across the path after a prank had been pulled. Some poor kid in a ladybug costume was throwing up in a trashcan as he had eaten way too many candies too quickly.
Dean, Sam, and Conner's trick-or-treat candies had been lost in the haunted house due to the chaos. However, no one had any intention of returning there. They had consumed half of their original loot earlier anyway, and the ones that had been left behind were mostly the types of candy that were not really that satisfying to munch on. Besides, they had a whole bag of jumbo marshmallows to compensate for their loss.
With matches at the ready and sticks littering the ground, Dean soon constructed a campfire for them so that they could roast marshmallows in relative peace. They were hiding behind a big tree so that nobody could see and chastise them for starting a fire in public property.
It would have been relaxing… if only Sam would stop chewing with his mouth open.
"What? They're really gooey." he said when he noticed Dean staring at him. Sticky and melted splotches of marshmallows were all over his face and hands, and Dean figured if Sam fell over half the ground would attach itself to him.
Meanwhile, Conner was eating his roasted marshmallows in the most refined way Dean had ever seen in his life. It was like marshmallows on a stick was part of fine dining and etiquette to him and that somehow disturbed Dean even more than his brother's sheer lack of poise.
"Sam, why don't you… buy a souvenir or whatever." said Dean, pointing at the street vendor that had just wheeled in off to their side. He was selling tacky Halloween-themed bobble-heads, balloons, and picture frames.
"But I don't want – " began Sam.
"Then buy one for dad for when he gets back." said Dean.
Sam looked at him in a funny way, like he was caught between a bitch face and mild concern, before he obeyed and went to the vendor. A line of kids was already there so it might take a while for Sam to come back.
With his brother gone, that just left Dean with Conner, and he can finally get something off his mind.
"Hey, Conner," Dean started.
Conner cleanly licked off the last of the marshmallow goo on his fingertips. "Yes?" he replied.
"Thanks for, you know, a while back…" said Dean awkwardly. Honestly, he himself was no longer sure what he was thanking his friend for. Thanks for not running out on them. Thanks for helping Sammy. Thanks for actually doing something to keep the attackers at bay. Thanks for being prepared to fight by his side. Thanks for caring enough about two people he hardly knew for a week.
Seeing Conner's reaction, it was evident that he had not been expecting Dean's gratitude. Nonetheless, he smiled gently, even though Dean did not say anything specific. "I should say you deserved their treatment but… I'm glad all is well." he said.
Dean huffed out a laugh before he became serious. "There's one thing bugging me though." he started. "How'd you know that iron keeps ghosts away?"
Back at the house, when they had their backs to the wall and Conner gave him the metal poker, he could have simply said that it was the only weapon within reach, or something like that. Yet he had been specific. Iron can deal with ghosts for a short time but it would not leave any lasting damage. Conner had said that it will 'repel them,' which meant he knew that it would not get rid of the ghosts, but it would still be useful. Conner knew of authentic methods to handle ghosts and Dean was pretty sure not every kid had that kind of knowledge.
Instead of being surprised or stressed out, like Dean predicted, Conner remained as calm as he had been four seconds ago. "It's common information." he answered.
"No, it isn't." said Dean as he stood up and advanced on Conner.
"To me, as well as my brothers and sisters, it is." said Conner, not understanding what the fuss was about.
Dean was close to pointing his knife at him. "How do you kill a ghost?"
"How do you kill a ghost? If that's even possible." he stated.
Conner blinked in puzzlement but responded anyway. "If you mean to permanently eradicate one, then simply burn the bones of its original body. Though it would be better if there was salt on them first, to be better purified." he said.
"What about a way to hurt a vampire? Not kill it, but just hurt it." Dean pressed on.
"Give it tainted blood, which can be done either with poison or by acquiring from a corpse." said Conner.
"How do you kill a shapeshifter?" inquired Dean.
"With silver, through the heart, like with a werewolf." replied Conner automatically.
"And to kill a shtriga?" Dean went on, the edge of his voice trembling. He tried not to think about the last time he and his family encountered one; he tried not to think about how close it had gotten to his brother.
"Why are you asking me all of these – ?"
"Just answer the damn question first." snapped Dean.
Conner paused for a moment, thinking. "Blessed iron, but it will only be effective when a shtriga is feeding." he said eventually.
The only thing Dean was able to do was stare at him in pure shock. "Holy crap." he muttered.
"What? What is it?" asked Conner, fearing he had done something wrong.
"Are you a hunter?" Dean directly inquired.
There was his head-tilt thing again. "A what?"
Dean did not know if Conner was that oblivious or if he was doing a convincing job of playing stupid. "You have a dad, right? Is he a hunter? Is anyone else in your family a hunter?" he asked a tad impatiently.
The look of confusion was spreading on Conner's expression. "I don't know what – "
"A hunter!" Dean practically yelled, as if that might shake some sense into him already. "You kill the supernatural creeps that are eating people or ripping their guts out or just plain murdering them! A hunter!" he said, and suddenly he found himself breathing hard and fighting back the tears that were not supposed to be there.
Conner's bewilderment never left his face.
"How can you know all these things if you're not a hunter?" asked Dean, who was now baffled as well.
"Our knowledge and understanding of the world is given to us by our Father." said Conner in a voice that was so calm that Dean wanted to punch him, just so he could react more believably. No one talked calmly about these things, not even his dad.
"What, he just teaches all this to you?" inquired Dean, feeling his energy – the anger, the hope – trickle out of him.
"Essentially." said Conner.
Dean sat back down on the grass and did his best to get his emotions under control. "What does he do anyway?"
"Like a job? Or does he bum around at home all the time?" offered Dean.
This had Conner thinking for a long while. "He has many jobs. Actually, He does every job imaginable." he replied.
"Anything more specific?" asked Dean, using a tone similar to when he was making Sam explain something clearly.
"That's as specific as I can get without going into too much detail." said Conner.
"You're not making sense." Dean sighed.
If he did not know him any better, Dean could have sworn he saw Conner roll his eyes at him. "My Father is a gardener, a healer, a shepherd, a teacher, a keeper of– "
"Okay, I get it. The dude's busy." interrupted Dean. He knew his dad had taken on a lot of roles in his time, but he doubted he ever took on the roles of Conner's dad. Dean's dad was not… gentle enough to handle some of those jobs. "So is he out a lot?"
"It has been a long time since any of us have seen Him," said Conner as he hugged his knees and stared into the fire Dean had made.
Those words resonated and virtually mirrored Dean's description of his own father. Normal people would be incapable of detecting the barest hint of sadness and longing hidden in his friend's voice, but Dean heard it. "Ever think he's keeping secrets from you guys? Or just, you know, not tell the whole story about what he does?" he said.
"No one can grasp the full extent of His intentions, but we follow His orders without question." said Conner, not breaking his gaze from the flames.
Translation: nobody knew what was exactly going on and they did not talk about it.
"What did he tell you to do?" asked Dean.
"He has not given me a direct order, though I obey the rules and commands He had passed on to my elder brothers." said Conner.
"Family business then." commented Dean, and he could not help the bittersweet smirk forming on his mouth. He had spent so much time thinking of how different Conner was to them, whereas in reality, they were more alike than he ever expected. It was both comforting and tragic.
Then, the most foolish thought entered Dean's mind, even more foolish than his decision to enter the haunted house. "Hey, can I tell you a secret?" he asked Conner, dropping his voice to a whisper.
Conner's eyes softened and he nodded. "Of course." he said.
"Promise not to tell anyone, alright? Not even Sammy." said Dean. He glimpsed at where his brother was and was a little relieved to see him playing with the other children and their bobble-heads.
"I promise." said Conner, and in spite of his gullible tendencies, he appeared strong and wise in ways that should never sculpt the features of a mere child. It was like he was older, much older.
So Dean told Conner his story, about the dad who spent more time battling monsters than with what remained of his family, about the constant moving, about his sacred duty to look after his brother above everything else. Of course, Dean did not recount every detail; he simply told Conner the gist of things. He left out the part about his mother, however, because even that was far too personal and distressing to share.
Throughout his tale, Conner listened without saying a word. There was sorrow in his eyes, but there was also compassion and admiration, and Dean wondered how anybody could admire this sort of life.
"Sam doesn't even really know why we keep moving around all the time." said Dean. He noted that his brother was still with the children, even though the street vendor and gone off to another area of the park. They were all spinning around in circles for some reason, like it was a weird game. "I mean, come on, just look at him. He's just a kid! He shouldn't deal with any of this crap."
"But you're just a kid too." said Conner.
Dean curled his fingers into a fist. "It's my job. I gotta look after him." he said.
They sat under the tree in silence for a minute. The fire was dying and they were almost out of marshmallows.
"You're a good person, Dean." said Conner.
This was such a chick-flick moment, but Dean let it slide for now. "Just don't tell Sammy that. Don't wanna look like a freaking Care Bear in front of him." he muttered.
Dean got up and extinguished the fire by kicking dirt into it, then scattered the burnt sticks so as to minimize the chance of flames accidentally rekindling. "Listen, you've put up with me and Sam for this long, which is seriously an achievement given our record." he told Conner without a second thought. "And I get that you wanna go back home, but… I just want you to know that you can stay with us for as long you want."
Conner's eyes widened at him. "Are you sure?" he asked tentatively.
"Sure I'm sure. No offense, but you won't last a day on your own." said Dean, chuckling a bit. Then he became thoughtful. "I'll talk to dad, and then we'll help you find your family, okay?" he said.
His friend did not smile; instead, his blue eyes seemed to shine brighter, as if they were betraying the feeling of camaraderie and thankfulness Conner was experiencing. "Thank you." he said quietly.
It was in Dean's nature to help those who truly needed it; for all his tough demeanor, he cared about people, probably too much. Tonight, on the other hand, he was getting sick of the chick-flick moments, and what better way to break that up than with some good old-fashioned mindless violence.
"Hey, wanna find out who'll win in a fight between Batman and Superman?" Dean asked competitively.
The bewilderment, plus a bit of terror, became known on Conner's face. "I don't – "
"Too late." All of a sudden, Dean tackled Conner to the ground and proceeded to put his friend in a variety of locks. "The Dark Knight takes no prisoners!"
As they scuffled in the dark, Sam returned and he was thrilled with what was going on. "Cool! Wrestling!" he exclaimed.
Dean and Conner were too busy struggling against one another to notice Sam's arrival. Sam decided to take this opportunity and use it for his advantage. He went a couple of paces back, aimed himself at Dean and Conner's chaotic pile, then launched himself at them for the fluffiest body slam they will ever experience.
Shtriga reference: 1x18, A.K.A "Something Wicked".
I did a bit of research and found out that Sam and Dean's ages at 1x18 were really close to their ages in this story, so I thought it would be interesting to tie that up.
Also, Sam doesn't find out about the whole hunter thing until he's 7, as shown by that Christmas episode. So Sam still has 2 years to go here.
Oh and one more thing… did you know that J2M wrestled with each other some time ago? :D
Many thanks for reading!