John Winchester waited, somewhat impatiently, for his youngest son to get his shoes and coat. The six-year old chatted happily to the boy beside him as he shoved his sneakers onto his feet.
"Excuse me, Mr. Winchester?" Sam's teacher, Ms. Heathrow, stepped in front of him and smiled.
"John," he replied and the woman smiled and repeated him.
"I was hoping I could talk to you for a moment," she said and John immediately became suspicious.
"Has Sam done something-" he began but Ms. Heathrow shook her head, laughing slightly, "Goodness no! Samuel's a good boy; very smart. He's a joy to have, really. No, I wanted to talk to you about our field-trip to the McAdams Apple Orchard and Pumpkin Farm tomorrow."
"Okay," John said and crossed his arms over his chest. He had heard nothing about this school trip, hadn't even seen a permission form for it and he had an idea that his eldest son might have had something to do with that.
"One of the parent chaperones dropped-out at the last minute and I was hoping that you would come with us," Ms. Heathrow explained, "Samuel volunteered you, actually."
John frowned, "He did, did he? And did Sam also tell you that we were leaving?"
"Oh, no he didn't," the wind left some of the teacher's sails and she looked disappointed.
"Daddy," a small voice spoke up and John glanced down to see his six-year old staring up at him, backpack slung over one shoulder and his jacket unzipped.
"You gotta come with us!" Sam exclaimed, "You just gotta! I already told everyone you would!"
The little boy's green eyes were large and his expression expectant.
"Sam," John began, "We're leaving tonight. We have to go-"
The child glanced down sadly, "Okay."
John looked up and met Ms. Heathrow's eyes. The woman bit her lip, her expression curious and concerned. John was sure she was calculating the time Sam had spent in her class, barely two weeks, and hoped she wouldn't ask why they were heading out of town so quickly.
"That's alright, Mr. Winchester," Sam's teacher said, "I'm sure we'll be fine without you."
"I'm sure you will," John agreed, ready to head down the other end of the school and pick up his eldest son.
"It's just that," the woman continued as though John hadn't spoken, "Samuel's been looking forward to this trip since he came here."
Tough luck, he thought, Sam's not going to get everything he wants all the time. Peoples' lives were more important than a few hours at some farm.
"He'll get over it," John said and reached down, taking his youngest's hand in his own, "If you'll excuse me, I have to go pick up my other son."
John was winding through the crowds of students before Sam's teacher even had a chance to say anything else. His youngest trudged along beside him, head down, feet shuffling.
He made his way to Dean's classroom and was pleased to see that the ten-year old was ready to head out.
"Hey Dad!" Dean greeted, walking forward, "Sammy, what's the matter?"
"Dean, did you sign some permission slip and have your brother take it into his teacher?" John asked, irritated with his oldest.
Dean's eyes narrowed, "You weren't there and Sammy really wanted to go."
"You don't sign school papers for me, Dean!" John hissed, angry but trying not to make a scene.
"He would have been the only one not going, Dad! That wouldn't have been fair!" Dean argued, his hands curling into fists.
"I am not having this discussion right now," John almost growled, "Let's go."
The angry father reached down and grabbed his eldest son's wrist and began marching both boys down the hall. Glancing down at his children, John frowned. Both Sam and Dean were staring up at him with kicked puppy expressions on their faces.
"Don't look at me like that," John grumbled and stared straight ahead.
Even when he wasn't looking though, he knew his sons had not given up with their pleading expressions. Sighing, John turned and headed away from the school's front doors, back towards Sam's classroom.
"Mr. Winchester!" Ms. Heathrow exclaimed, "Is something the matter?"
She looked down at the man's sons who looked as though their puppy had just died and glanced concernedly at the father.
"I will be there tomorrow," John informed her, "The field-trip, I mean."
"That's wonderful!" The teacher gushed, "Thank you so much!"
John almost grimaced, "Don't thank me, thank Sam."
Ms. Heathrow smiled and glanced down at the boys; Samuel was beaming up at his father as though the man was a superhero and Dean was clearly struggling to keep from smirking.
John cleared his throat, "Should I… uh, bring anything?"
"No need, just yourself," Ms. Heathrow told him, "And thank you again for doing this, Mr. Winchester."
John nodded and looked down at his sons, "C'mon boys."
I can't believe I'm actually doing this, he thought as he led his sons towards the school's double doors, wishing he could just put this town in his rearview mirror but knowing that doing so would break his kids' hearts.
John closed his eyes and groaned.
If he had to listen to one more round of 'The Wheels On The Bus' he was going to shoot something.
He was sitting on an uncomfortable grey, vinyl bus seat beside the only other parent volunteer- a harried-looking woman who had triplets in the class- directly behind the driver. The first grade teacher was sitting across from John and the stressed mother, singing happily along with her students and- God damn it- encouraging them.
Sam was sitting near the rear of the bus with his friends and he was so quiet John could not even hear him, so small that the top of his head wasn't visible over the rows of seats.
John sighed and told himself that one day of doing nothing but watching a bunch of six-year olds would be nothing compared to the jobs he was used to. Besides, it would keep Sam happy for a while and keep him off John's back.
I can do this, the Winchester father told himself, other parents do the same thing so I can too.
To try and distract himself from the obnoxious singing, John thought about the case he planned to pick up in New York state that sounded like a poltergeist haunting. An old hotel was having trouble renting rooms due to the violent activity that seemed to be happening at all hours of the day. Although there had been no deaths, guests had been run out of the building, claiming that a woman wearing old-fashioned clothing and holding a mallet was coming into their room and threatening them. John had found reports of broken furniture, missing clothing, flickering lights that never seemed to work, cold spots, and unearthly screaming.
The hunter wanted to head up to the motel and take care of the poltergeist before it had a chance to do any real damage. John was worried that some moronic thrill-seeker might try and stay in one of the rooms- particularly 31, where the spectral woman was seen the most- and end up dead, skull broken with a mallet.
"John? Mr. Winchester? We've stopped," Ms. Heathrow's voice startled the man from his thoughts and he stared out the bus window at the large traditional-red barn towering over them from beside the parking lot.
Showtime, John thought and stood, stretching as he followed the mother-of-three and the teacher off the bus.
The day could have been worse, John mused. He actually couldn't help but smile whenever he saw Sam, grinning happily, animated, his eyes sparkling with curiosity as he leaned down to feed a goat some pellets when they went to the small petting zoo, or when the farmer explained the right way to pick an apple off the tree or showed them how those apples were pressed to make cider.
Sam, bundled in a winter coat, toque, mittens and a scarf, still managed to look smaller than his classmates but that didn't seem to matter. He barely noticed that John was with them as he chattered away to his friends, his cheeks rosy from the crisp October air.
John actually found himself enjoying the outing. He made smalltalk with Sam's teacher and the other parent volunteer over styrofoam cups of hot apple cider and ham and cheese sandwiches; he smirked at the children's excitement over the novelty of riding on the back of a tractor down a long, bumpy road; he helped lead Sam and his friends- triumphantly- through a maze built of bales of hay.
The final activity of the day was to go down to the pumpkin patch and pick out one squash each for the students to take home with them. John chuckled to himself at the boys and girls who sought out the perfect prize, the fattest, brightest, largest pumpkins, almost too big for them to carry.
Once every student had a round, orange squash- more than one the size of basket balls- they were shepherded back towards the waiting bus.
John sighed, glad the day was coming to a close, ready to pack the Impala and head onto the road.
He waited patiently as Ms. Heathrow counted her students. The teacher frowned, checked her list again and counted once more.
"I'm missing one," she muttered, looking over the milling six-year olds, "Where's Sam?"
"We saw him at the pun-kin path," a boy- one of the triplets announced, his brothers standing right beside him; all three holding massive specimens of the aforementioned squash.
"I'll get him," John said and turned around, frowning. Sam knew better than to wander off. He knew he was supposed to stay with the class. The boy would be lucky if John didn't tan his hide for disobeying his teacher when they got back to the motel room.
Sam looked over his shoulder to see his father talking to Ms. Heathrow and the triplet's Mom at the side of the patch.
"C'mon Sam!" Troy, one of the trio, called and the youngest Winchester walked towards him, "Tim and Tom wanna find the bestest punk-ins."
Sam bit his lip. He didn't really like the triplets; they could be mean sometimes but Troy continued to call him so he moved towards him.
"Jeez," the other boy grumbled, "You're such a slow-poke."
Tim and Tom giggled and turned away from Sam, their winter boots squelching in the muddy ground, stepping carefully over pumpkin vines.
"I'm gonna get the biggest pun-king," Tim announced loudly and his brothers protested, "No way!"
Sam said nothing, he just walked dutifully behind the other boys quietly.
"What about you?" Tom asked, leaning right into Sam's face so that the smaller boy could smell his sour breath, "You gonna get a big'un?"
Sam shrugged, "I don't think so."
The triplets laughed, "Aw are the punk-kings too big for you? Little baby Winchester!"
"Don't call me that!" Sam snapped, angry, "I'm not a baby!"
"You gonna cry?" Troy asked, sneering, "Little baby."
Sam stopped walking, "Go find your own pumpkins, I'm going back."
"Yeah, run back to Daddy!" Tim called and Sam froze where he was. His hands clenched into fists and he whipped around, his green eyes smouldering.
He marched right up to Tim and shoved the taller boy with all his might. Tim's foot caught in a dry vine and he fell backwards, right onto a pumpkin, squashing it and bruising his tailbone.
Troy and Tom jumped on Sam, pushing him down. Troy ripped off his hat and threw it before grabbing a handful of Sam's hair and pushing his face into the mud.
Tom kicked Sam in the side with his winter boots, one foot catching a pumpkin with a sickening thunk. The boy's eyes lit up and he began kicking the squashes, trampling the vines and splashing mud everywhere.
"Tommy, let's go," Troy said, helping Tim up and the three of them ran off through the field, not even casting a backwards glance at Sam.
The youngest Winchester remained where he was; his side hurting and the gritty taste of dirt in his mouth.
Slowly Sam pulled himself into a sitting position and wiped at his face with his coat sleeves. His lip began to tremble when the fabric brushed against a cut above his eyebrow and blood smeared on his coat.
Sniffing, Sam struggled to his feet, ready to go back to the class when he stopped. There was a woman standing in front of him.
Something was wrong with her though. Her skin was a pale green and she was only wearing a dress made of leaves that fluttered in the wind. Her feet were bare. Her long hair was the colour of the summer sun and on her head was a wreath of wheat and berries.
"Mortal," she said, her voice as dry and cool as the wind whistling around them, "You dare destroy this harvest?"
Sam's mouth gaped. He had never seen anyone more beautiful or terrifying in his life. The woman stared around them at the smashed pumpkins, the splattered mud and torn vines with a mournful expression as though the squashes growing in the field were something dear to her.
"I-" he stammered, "I- It wasn't me!"
The woman stepped forwards, her feet leaving no mark in the mud.
"You must be punished!" she announced and raised one delicate hand.
"No!" Sam cried as plump green pumpkin vines twined around his ankles, slithered up his legs like snakes to his waist, squeezing, climbing to his chest and reaching his throat, "It wasn't m-"
The boy's words were cut off as the vines around his neck squeezed. Sam gasped but no air entered his lungs. His heart began to pound in fear and he wished he could call out for his Daddy.
Sam tried to back away but instead toppled over onto his back, his legs pinned by the vines. The woman stood over him, her expression one of satisfaction.
John saw Sam collapse and knew something was no right at all. Breaking into a full-out sprint, he slid his gun from the waistband of his jeans and pointed it directly at the woman looming over his son.
As John approached, he saw the reason for his son's fall. Aiming the gun, John shot at one of the vines binding his youngest's legs, the silencer on the weapon releasing only a muffled wumpf.
"SAM!" John shouted and pointed the gun at the woman again. She looked up at him, frowning.
The hunter narrowly jumped over a vine shooting towards him and trampled through the pumpkins, almost losing his footing more than once in his haste.
"Sammy!" John cried, seeing his baby boy's face turn a dark, purplish red from lack of oxygen.
"Get away from him!"
"He has destroy my crops," the woman explained cooly, "He must perish."
"No!" John dropped to his knees beside his son, tearing at the vines, dropping his gun onto the ground, "No, you can't- He can't- He's just a little boy. He's my little boy."
The father frantically tugged at the vines wrapped tightly around Sam's neck but he simply could not get a grip on them. He lowered his hands uselessly when he realized he'd be doing more harm to Sam if he tried to pry the vines away from his throat.
John stared at his son, Sam's eyes were open, glassy and bloodshot, pleading silently for him to do something. His mouth opened and he tried to speak but no words came out.
"Please," John begged, completely forgetting about his weapon, his vocation as a hunter, and was simply a panicked father trying to beg for his child's life.
"He's only a little boy."
The woman, who had been known in older times as Demeter, goddess of the harvest, watched the mortal man crouched over his son. He had not tried to kill her. He had not pointed his weapon at her.
Something in the goddesses' heart gave at the sight of the grieving father. Her thoughts turned to her daughter, Persephone, trapped in Hades as Pluto's wife for half of the year, every year for eternity until the crops have been harvested. Demeter knew what it was to lose a child and she could not bear to take anyone's, even a mortal man's, son or daughter from them.
Raising a hand, the goddess called the vines back to herself and vanished as suddenly as she had appeared, shamed by the crime she had been about to commit. If Persephone heard that she had killed a child, she would be so disappointed in her mother. Demeter was the goddess of the harvest, a helpful deity, not a harmful one, and the plight of that young man- at her own hands- had opened her eyes up to that. The child was only human and humans made mistakes. She could forgive him this time.
"Sam? Sammy!" John raised his son's shoulders and gently shook his boy, trying to get him to wake up.
The father brushed sweaty hair away from his son's brow and peered anxiously into his face. The awful red-purple hue was fading to the colour of spoiled milk, not an improvement.
"Damn it," John muttered, angry with himself for not watching his child closely enough. He never should have let Sam out of his sight.
With one hand underneath Sam's shoulders and the other supporting his boy's knees, John lifted his child, cradling him to his chest.
He walked carefully through the pumpkin patch, avoiding stepping on any of the squashes and incurring the wrath of the goddess himself.
"Mr. Winchester! What happened?!" Ms. Heathrow cried, standing on the edge of the field, her expression terrified.
"I need to call an ambulance," John told her through gritted teeth and the teacher ran ahead of him towards the barn where there would be a phone.
Sam stared longingly at the bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken on the motel room's rickety table- the Winchester version of Thanksgiving dinner- and ignored his bowl of tomato soup.
"Sorry Sammy," Dean said, not sounding really sorry at all, "The doctor said you have to eat soft food until your throat gets better."
The six-year old scowled down at his soup and sighed, wincing as pain shot through his throat.
John grabbed a drumstick from the bucket and glanced at his youngest, his eyes more than a little moist. He had come close to losing Sam that day at the farm. The paramedics who arrived on the scene had been surprised that Sam was still breathing on his own- he had been without oxygen for at least a minute, if not longer- and the doctor had announced the six-year old would have no lasting damage, or, if so, very minimal after his ordeal.
Thank God, John had thought- and still thought- every time he looked at his youngest child. He knew it could have been a lot worse than it was and for that he was counting his lucky stars.
Sam didn't even recall what had happened. All he remembered was the triplets attacking him and then waking up in the hospital with one hell of a sore throat and a worried father and brother at his bedside. He just thought the bullies had badly hurt him and for now John was content to let Sam believe that. He was far too young to know what was really out there. Dean, well, there hadn't been a choice with him, seeing his house go up in flames while his mother roasted on the ceiling. But Sam, as long as he could, John would keep knowledge of the supernatural away from his youngest, at least for a little while.
"Happy Thanksgiving," John muttered and bit into the chicken's leg, thankful to have both his boys with him for the holiday.
1. Just a little theme fanfic for all my fellow Canadian readers and writers.
2. I hope you all have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!
3. Please leave a review!