Set season three, just after "Dream a Little Dream of Me."
The sun was low in the sky, but still visible. He scanned their area for civvies, wishing they'd waited until nightfall to do this; it was possible some of the family might come back before the day was out. Dean squinted in the golden light as Sam labored in the shadow of the grave, shoveling the last of the dirt off the top of the casket.
He looked up at Dean, wiping sweat from his forehead.
Nope, he thought, looking reluctantly down into the pit. Not by a long shot.
It was the smallest casket Dean had ever seen. Can't be more than three feet long, he thought, feeling lightheaded. Be surprised if he kid was walking yet. It was cheap, too, which really kicked the horror factor into the stratosphere, at least for Dean. A simple pine box with brass latches along one side and hinges on the other. A cross had been carved into the lid.
They didn't usually have to resort to digging up fresh bodies, but there was no way to get near the kid before the burial – the family was hovering around constantly, and they'd been suspicious as all get out of strangers since the spree had started. Not that Dean could blame them – seven children dead of natural causes inside a week had everyone in the community tearing their hair out. Couple that with the anxiety surrounding law enforcement, and he and Sam had thrown in the towel and just waited for the funeral.
And now it was time to bite the bullet.
He closed his eyes, willing himself to stay on his feet. The last thing he needed was to pass out and go tumbling headfirst into the hole.
"No point in waiting." Dean did his best to keep his voice even. They'd dug hundreds of graves in their lifetimes, but it was different when the pine box wasn't much bigger than a shoebox. "Let's just get it over with."
Sam sighed and nodded, dusting off the lid. "Here goes."
The hinges creaked as Sam fumbled with the lid, and Dean took a deep breath as the lid opened.
Though he knew it was ridiculous, part of him had been expecting the body to be rotten or crawling with worms or something else that would make him want to toss his cookies, but the reality was much more sobering.
The kid couldn't have been more than two.
"Jesus," Sam said, turning away as best he could.
He was wearing a heartbreakingly small tuxedo with a little bow tie. His face was pale, but not gray, and his shiny shoes caught and reflected some of the fading sunlight. His mouth was open, as though he were breathing through it, and his small hands were still folded over his chest.
"Don't drag it out, Sam. Just look for it so we can get the hell out of here."
"Easy for you to say," Sam snapped. "You're not the one who has to do it."
"Fine, god damn it."
Sam quickly turned back the collar of the shirt, glancing at the boy's neck.
He looked up at Dean and nodded solemnly.
Dean swore and walked a few feet from the graveside. Son of a bitch, he thought. When we catch you...
Sam appeared at his side, dusting anxiously at his clothes and looking green. "At least we know what's going on, now. That's something, right?"
Dean snorted derisively. "Yeah, I feel lucky. Don't you?"
Sam headed back toward the grave.
"What are you doing? We gotta get ready for tonight-"
"We can't just leave him open like this, Dean," Sam snapped. Dean didn't take it personally; god knew he was feeling a little frazzled himself. "Go set things up. I'll meet you back at the motel in an hour."
The sun finally disappeared behind the hills as Dean passed through the gates of the cemetery and into the parking lot. The Impala was parked at the far end, near the restrooms, and as he walked toward it, he wondered how the hell the kid's family was gonna reconcile all this. How did you come to terms with laying your two-year-old to rest in a city-donated pine box? What the hell was the point of it all after that?
He didn't usually let his mind wander in this direction – he's have lost his marbles years ago if he did – but this case was unhinging him at the base like few others had. As he started the car and backed out, he popped an AC/DC cassette into the player and cranked the volume up to the max. This album was far from his favorite and parts of it were downright crappy, but the riffs were always louder than his thoughts.
Couldn't beat that.