Author's Note: So I do actually still have one paper to go… But I have a few days, so I thought I'd get this started. This is my first shot at writing pre-series boys (and will also be my first shot at writing John Winchester, although his role isn't huge).
Summary: It's just a straightforward salt-and-burn, so Dean and John decide it'll be the perfect job to give Sam as his first solo hunt. And then it stops being so straightforward.
Fear No More
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Chapter I: How the Hunt Began
Once upon a time, when I was short and skinny and fourteen years old, Dad took a case in California. Over the years, he took a lot of cases in California – it's a big state, and not all of it is Silicon Valley and Hollywood – but this one concerned me closely.
And Dean. Because, you know, being the annoying big brother he is, he hasn't minded his own business since the day I was born (or for all I know, since the day he was born), so everything that concerns me eventually winds up concerning him, too. Especially if it also concerns things that go bump in the night.
I was fourteen (and a half) years old, Dean was eighteen – just a few months shy of nineteen – and had dropped out of high school, and it was November 2. Dad was drunk. Dean was drunk. (You were drunk, Dean. I distinctly remember it. I was the only one sober.) I was trying to shut both of them out and get on with my History essay, but of course that wasn't going to happen. So eventually I gave up, closed my books, and listened to them tell each other (and me) about all the things they were going to do to It when they found It.
Yeah, that It. When I was fourteen we didn't know (or at least I didn't know, and I'm pretty sure Dean didn't know) that it was a demon, leave alone that it was a yellow-eyed demon called Azazel. I don't want to speculate about how much Dad knew.
They were about half an hour into it when the call came from Caleb.
We left as soon as Dad could arrange it.
A week later, I found myself squinting in the west coast sunshine as I looked up at the imposing red brick edifice that was Ellison Prep.
Ellison was a high-class prep school in California. Senators and Hollywood stars and Texas oil magnates sent their children there. The school was set in fifty acres of rolling parkland complete with swimming pools, tennis courts and a miniature golf course. There were twenty-foot walls shielding the students inside from the curious gaze of the world.
It was not the kind of place one of us would have been within a mile of, normally.
But this was a case.
Principal Summers was a friend of Caleb's. Caleb had helped him out when his long-dead great-grandfather had taken exception to a gazebo he wanted to build on the family property. So, when Summers had looked up from the admissions list one morning to see a translucent twelve-year-old flickering in front of him, one hand outstretched plaintively, he'd known whom to call.
Caleb was chasing down an alleged swamp monster in Florida (with the emphasis on alleged – don't ask), so he called Dad, who was the nearest hunter he knew. Dad checked it the school's history once he'd sobered up, and decided that it must be the ghost of little Adam Jefferson, a student who'd died of pneumonia in February 1955. He'd been buried in his hometown in Illinois, but Dad was sure we'd find something – a lock of hair, or a diary – preventing him from going into the light.
It had seemed like a straightforward, open-and-shut case – the ghost wasn't hurting anyone – so he decided that it would be good practice for me.
I'd been enrolled as Sam Davis, heir of an old but impoverished New England family.
I wasn't completely on my own, of course. Dean was there to back me up (Dean Peters, son of a rich financier from New York), and Dad had set up shop in a motel in Yellow Sands, a small town about a mile away.
It was only Dean's presence next to me that let me suppress a shiver as I looked up at the building. Something felt wrong.
"Sammy?" Dean asked. "You OK?"
"Fine," I muttered.
It was a lie, though. I wasn't. There was something about the school – about the building, the trees, the flowers, even the gravel on the path – that seemed off. Evil. Malicious. I couldn't help a horrible sense of foreboding, and I could barely muster up a smile for Principal Summers when he came out to meet us and show us our rooms.
Did I mention that we were residents?
Dean's room was miles away from mine (probably literally miles in those winding corridors), and he wasn't happy about that. Dean apparently thought that after years of training I still didn't know how to handle a spirit that wasn't even vengeful.
He started out with a couple of small frowns, and when Summers didn't get the hint he progressed to complaining and finally just outright threatened to call the whole thing off unless he could keep an eye on me. He only relented when Summers promised to let him put salt lines down in my room and vet the students who were on either side.
We left our carefully-packed trunks (provided by Summers) in our rooms and went to class.
I knew the drill of introductions by then. Name (it usually wasn't an alias then, because we needed our school records), age, where I was from (Kansas, when I felt like it), and then sit down and wait to see who would talk to me.
Most students usually weren't interested in the weird new kid. It was the same at Ellison, although a pretty redhead in the third row gave me a shy smile and offered to share her notes. I smiled back and thanked her, and felt another thrill of foreboding as I settled into my seat.
The day's first lesson (second, actually; I'd missed the first) was History with Ms. Sanders. Then we had English Lit with Mr. Jacobi and Math with Ms. Gomez. Then it was recess, and I went down to the cafeteria with the redhead (Melinda) and her friends Katy, Dennis and Tom.
The food was much better than at any other school I'd had been to. Dean caught my eye and winked from where he was sitting with his arm around one of the cheerleaders at the Senior table. Dean thinking with his downstairs brain was so normal that it dispelled a lot of the heavy atmosphere I'd been feeling. By the time I had to cross the quadrangle to go to the Chemistry lab, I was feeling a lot happier.
Melinda started sniffling as we crossed the lawn. (She and Dennis were taking the same Chemistry class as I was.) "Allergies," she explained, fumbling for a tissue.
"All year round, when I'm at school. I think maybe it's something about California. The air, or the Pacific, or something like that. I never have any problems at home. My family's from Florida."
I filed the information away automatically. (Because that was what I did, right? Sam the Geek.) But I didn't think much of it beyond noting that Melinda's sniffles didn't seem to improve even after we got indoors. (But then, it was the Chemistry lab. Somehow every Chemistry lab in every school I've ever been to has been full of weird smells. Probably made people's allergies worse.)
"Welcome, Sam," smiled the teacher, a tall, dark-haired man whom I disliked on instinct. "My name is Mr. Baker. Mr. Summers told me you'd be joining us today. I take it you've done Chemistry in the school you transferred from?"
"Yes, Mr. Baker," I said politely.
"Good. So you know the basics of being in a lab. Be careful, don't pour the hydrochloric into the nitric to see what happens, don't put your hand in anything, and if you feel ill, dizzy or lightheaded for any reason, step outside until you feel better. One of the school nurses is always on hand in case of any accidents, and of course you can ask me if you need any help."
The hour in the lab felt more like three – Chemistry was never one of my favourite subjects – but eventually it ended and Melinda, Dennis and I hurried back to the main building to leave our books in our lockers before gym.
After gym, I had the rest of the day free. I said I'd go up and unpack. The truth was I wanted some time to myself, but Tom and Dennis insisted they'd come and help. I didn't want to turn them down – they looked so enthusiastic it would have been like refusing to play ball with a pair of puppies. And I knew Summers would've kept the contents of my trunk innocuous.
The key was on top, and inside were several sets of school uniform and some other clothes. Douchebag clothes, Dean would have called them, and for once I had to agree with him. There was being stylish, and then there was dressing like you were already CEO of a Forbes 500 company at the age of fourteen.
My only consolation was that Dean would have the same douchebag clothes as I did.
Fortunately I didn't see Dean at dinner. I didn't think I'd ever live down the clothes, even if Dean had to wear the same thing. But Freshmen and Seniors had separate dining rooms. (The Freshmen had a dining room. The Seniors, I gathered, had studies and had their meals brought in.)
The other person I didn't see was Melinda. Katy told us her sniffles had progressed into a full-blown cold and she was sleeping it off in her room.
I wondered if there was flu or something going round – I wasn't feeling all that hot myself. (God, it's been freaking fourteen years since we were at Ellison. I'm sorry I didn't come running to find you the second I felt less than 100% healthy. Now shut up about it, Dean!) After dinner, I refused Dennis' suggestion of a nighttime trip to the pool with some of our classmates (I guessed that was the classy version of sneaking into the auditorium after hours) and went back to my room.
My head was pounding by the time I got back.
Normally that would've kept me awake, but that night I was lucky. I crawled into bed, hit the lights, and I was fast asleep in seconds.
When a noise woke me, it was still dark, my head still hurt, and there was a shadowy shape sitting on the edge of the bed.
I couldn't hold back a smile. "Dean."
"Sorry, kiddo," Dean said. "Go back to sleep. It's past midnight. I didn't mean to wake you. I heard that Tom kid saying you were sick, so I thought you might have forgotten the salt lines." I had forgotten. "I've put them down. Go back to sleep."
What would I do without Dean?
"I'm not sick," I told him. "I have a headache."
"Have? In the present tense?" I felt light fingers on my forehead. "You're not running a fever. Feeling any nausea or dizziness?"
"Hurt anywhere else?"
"Just my head."
"Take anything for it?"
"No. I don't need anything. I'll be fine."
"OK, Sammy." Dean's fingers moved up into my hair. "Go on, go back to sleep. Get some rest."
Next time I woke, it was morning and Dean was gone. So was the headache.
I washed and dressed and stumbled down to the Freshmen's dining room for breakfast. (Only lunch was in the cafeteria, and I never managed to figure out the Why of that. Summers said something about using it to give different classes a chance to interact. I didn't see much of that happening.)
Breakfast was eggs and waffles and cereal (not Lucky Charms). We had a half-hour to ourselves after that, which I used to get Melinda (who was feeling much better as well) to show me how to log on to the school's network. Summers' supplies had included a laptop (which I was pretty sure I wouldn't get to keep), and although the school didn't have wireless (this was in the technological Dark Ages of the 1990s), it did have broadband cables in every room. I was already learning that the Internet was a valuable tool for things other than the naked women whose pictures Dean was always downloading.
I had first-period Physics (another wasted lesson on me; Dean's the one who likes fiddling with wires and spanners), and then I was free until Math, right before lunch. My friends were busy, and it would look suspicious if I tried to corner Dean for a chat considering that nobody knew we were even related, so I went back up to my room and started some research on Adam Jefferson.
Someone – a maid, probably – had been in to clean and had swept up the salt (I don't even want to know what they thought I was doing with it). I let it be; I could lay them before I went to bed. I wasn't going to be in the room long anyway.
Dad hadn't been able to find a photograph with the news article. I didn't yet know enough to hack the FBI database (how I learnt that is a story for another time – even Dean's never heard that one), but the school had an online repository of class photographs and it wasn't hard to track the kid's picture down.
It was a grainy, black-and-white picture. You couldn't tell much: dark hair, dark eyes, exact colour of both indeterminate. But one thing was clear: Adam Jefferson had been a happy boy. He was smiling into the camera, smiling the way you can only smile when you don't have a care in the world.
And something had killed him.
I shivered harder.
And suddenly I knew it wasn't just the picture that had done it. The temperature in the room had dropped. There were goose bumps on my arms.
I swivelled my chair around slowly. There, right behind me, eerily pale in the now-flickering light, was a young boy, one hand held out in silent pleading. Wide-open eyes met mine, seemed to look through me into my very soul.
The ghost Summers had seen, almost certainly.
I looked from the boy to the picture and back.
The picture on the screen wasn't clear, but one thing was. The ghost child in the room with me wasn't Adam Jefferson.
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