Hey, everyone! Laura here. Due to a couple of comments with an insane amount of criticism, I went back and redid a few chapters of my fic. I still stand by the "it's my first fic" excuse, but most of the comments were constructive, so yeah. Thanks to everyone who commented on this fic. The sequel will be along shortly! This fic takes place pre-cannon to Supernatural and during s4e13 for Criminal Minds. I'm not a fan of SSA Jordan Todd (who replaced JJ while on maternity leave in this episode) so JJ's back for this fic. Loosely based on the CM episode "Bloodline."
John Winchester was having a bad day. Strike that. Being a Winchester, most of his days were bad days. He was having a very bad day.
His eldest son, Dean, sat to his left, the youngest, Sam, to his right, on the small armchair in the much too cramped RV. The space was not what bothered him. He and his boys had been on the road their entire lives, traveling the country, living off the land when they could. No, what bothered him was the little girl thrashing around in the closet.
Nobody was perfect, John knew, though he wanted as close to perfection as he could get. First, from himself, second his sons, and third from the girl in the closet. The thrashing could have been tolerated, but she wasn't squirming, trying to release her bound hands and ankles. She was thrashing for an entirely different reason.
John guessed epilepsy, but he wasn't a doctor—not that it took one to see that she was obviously sick. A sickness like was too dangerous. With the life they lived, it would get her killed and endanger his family. John Winchester was a hard man, but no one, not even a sick little girl, would come close to putting his boys in danger, not if he could help it.
But John Winchester wasn't a careless man, both in the logical and emotional sense. This little girl wasn't right, but that didn't mean he needed to do anything rash. Her parents were probably worried sick. He knew he would be if his boys had been taken the way she was, with only a few salt lines and Devil's Traps to indicate that he'd been there at all.
Just because he was a logical man, didn't mean he didn't relate to her family. If anything, the way he lived made him even more inclined to lessen their pain. He was, after all, doing this for his own family. Nothing, not even the yellow-eyed demon and his merry band of fiends, could pry him away from his sons. The death of his wife couldn't even do that much. If anything, it made him more inclined to keep them safe, even if that meant parading around this God-forsaken city in search of a mate for his eldest.
Dean was a man now. At fourteen, just four weeks ago in fact, he'd been on his own during a Hunt. A windego took them further north than he'd expected and Dean, in the never-before-seen snow, lined up and took the shot, killing the creature instantly. As a father, John wasn't happy to see that his son hadn't walked away unscathed—he had a rake of claw marks down his side, stitched now and healing nicely—but as a Hunter he'd been proud that his son would forever carry a memento of his first real kill. There was no doubt in his mind that Dean was a man now. He could be counted on in a firefight, to watch his back. And while he was a long ways away from taking on a bigger Hunt, he'd done right by John and earned the right to call himself a man.
There were many things that John could teach him—how to Hunt, to lay the salt lines, to shave—but nothing could teach him the importance of family like having his own. Sure, he looked after his little brother, but that would only last for so long. Sammy was only four years younger than him, and could take care of himself for the most part. In a few years, he would begin to question his loyalties. John could already hear the protests—the same ones he had had when he was this age. Why couldn't he go to school? Why continue to save people who would rather see them in prison than as heroes? Why continue to hunt the things in the dark when more just kept taking their place?
The answer—the same answer he had been told as a child, the same answer he would give to his son—was simple: Family.
The creatures that came out to play in the moonlight wouldn't stop just because you quit being a Hunter. They were always out there and as long as they existed, no one would be safe. That was why he hunted. That was why they spent hours training. That was why they couldn't stay in a single place for longer than a few weeks. Keeping his family safe was his top—his only—priority. And soon, it would also be Dean's.
The little girl stopped convulsing, her limbs going lax almost immediately even as the tears continued to stream down her face. She seemed to be unconscious, but he wouldn't take any chances by loosening her restraints.
"Sam." He motioned for his son.
"Make sure she's okay. And don't remove the ties," he added. "Dean?" When his eldest turned to face him, John continued. "Get the car ready, we need to take her back to her family."
"What?! Why?" Dean was angry. "She is with her family, isn't she, Dad? She's supposed to be my family. I don't want to take her back."
John hardened his face and stared down his son. "Dean," he said harshly. "No arguments. Get the car ready. We're taking her back."
Dean's anger deflated. His back straightened and his legs came together, subconsciously standing at attention. "Yes, sir," he said and walked outside to unhitch the car they'd been dragging behind the RV.
John sighed and rubbed his face with his hand. He could vaguely hear Sam speaking in slow tones to the little girl, trying to soothe her. Dean wouldn't have been able to do that. He had too much of his old man in him, John knew. There was a difference between wanting to help someone and knowing the words to do so. Dean was a soldier—following orders, saving people, doing good because it was the right thing to do. He was the caretaker, the protector, but Sam was the one who understood the way John did. He was the one who spoke to the grieving families and gave them something to live for when their loved ones were lost. When the girl finished sobbing, John knew he made the right choice in sending Sam to comfort her.
The door opened and Dean walked up the stairs, his face showing his anger, even if his voice stayed even when he told John the car was ready. John knew he had a lot of explaining to do, but that could wait until they were alone in the car on their way to drop the little girl off with her parents. Dean would understand, he knew, once he had time to talk with his son.
John walked toward the closet where Sam was crouched down with the little girl in his arms. Now that John was paying attention, he realized that the girl was probably closer to Sam's age than Dean's. She trusted him, if only for that fact. Sam could convince her that going with John and Dean would be safe. As he got closer, he wasn't surprised to hear Sam asking her questions. He was more surprised to hear that she answered them. In the eight hours they'd had her, she hadn't spoken a word other than to tell them to let her go. And even then, she'd quit after the first few hours in favor of silence.
"Can you tell me about your mom and dad?" Sammy asked her.
The little girl nodded and spoke about them. Her mother was a teacher at the local high school and her father was a Marine. John blanched slightly at the news. He was glad that they were giving her back. Brotherhood deserved more than a kidnapped daughter.
Sam glanced behind him and quirked his eyebrow in question, wanting to know if it was time to leave. John nodded.
Sam turned back to the girl, rubbing his hands in soothing circles on her back. "I'm going to tell you about my dad," he said. John wasn't worried. Sam knew better than to say anything that would bring the law down on them. "My dad seems scary sometimes," he told her and she nodded, "but he will do everything he can to keep you safe, okay?" If she looked skeptical, John didn't blame her. "My dad and my brother are going to take you back to your family, okay?" She looked hopeful, but didn't answer. Sam continued. "But in order to do that, I'm going to need your help. It's going to be a while before you can get back home. A couple of hours at least. And we need you to get into the trunk."
The girl whimpered and flinched away from him. Small shivers racked her body and John was surprised that she didn't start screaming.
"It's okay, it's okay," Sam soothed her. "You love your mom and dad, right?"
The little girl nodded aggressively, eyes wide.
"I love my dad, too," he said, surprising John. He knew his son loved him, but that he would so openly state it was surprising. They weren't the most expressive family. "And I know you would do anything to keep them safe, like I would, right?"
The girl nodded again, much more subdued this time.
"Well my dad and my brother are taking a big risk to give you back to your family. It could get them in a lot of trouble if anyone sees you before you get home. And if someone sees you, then they'll get in big trouble." Sam's shoulders sunk down and his head hung low. "You understand?" he asked her quietly, eyes still downcast. "I need my dad and my brother." He hesitated. "And so I need your help," he said, looking straight into her eyes. John could see the glistening of tears.
The girl hesitated a moment before nodding her head in understanding.
John was impressed. He was sure that Sam was telling the truth, but the girl was eating it up.
Sammy's grin was contagious, causing both John and the little girl to smile a little in return.
"Will you stay with me?" she asked. Her voice sounded years younger than she looked.
His smile dimmed a little, turning sad. "Of course," he reassured her.
She nodded and looked up at John expectantly. He put what he hoped was a calm expression and opened his arms to her. "Come here, sweetie," he said.
She cast one last searching expression at Sam before getting off of the floor and walking to John. Even then, she stayed a careful distance away from him.
John thought about having Dean take her—she was more likely to warm to him than John—but seeing the hardened expression on his face, John wasn't sure if that was the best course of action. Dean was still angry, something he wasn't much familiar with. Instead, he let Dean lead the way, the little girl falling behind him and John bringing up the rear. The girl was smart. She stayed between them. Only once did she look like she was going to run, but the moment passed and she continued trotting forward until they reached the trunk of the Impala.
Before telling the girl to get in, John made sure the padlock on the weapons cache was latched tight and that nothing was loose in the trunk. It was clean. John told himself to remember to praise Dean for that. Even angry, he did nothing but his absolute best.
The girl flinched when John tried to help her into the trunk, so he let his arms fall to his sides until she was in all the way. He didn't notice Dean had even gone back into the RV until he returned with a small travel pillow and a blanket.
"I got these for you," Dean said to the girl.
John was surprised at the tenderness in his voice. Maybe he had underestimated Dean. Maybe he would have handled it well enough. It was about time he started trusting his eldest son more.
"Will you be okay here by yourself?" Dean asked her.
"Ok," he said, satisfied.
Dean closed the trunk carefully and trotted to the passenger seat. He let Sam into the back and John got in after them and started the engine. It hadn't been too long since they'd driven it last so there was no need to check the engine before heading out. He pulled onto the road and headed east, back to Alabama to return the little girl.