Summary: In 1987, Dean Winchester was eight years-old, and his little brother Sam Winchester, known as Sammy, was four years-old. Their father, John Winchester, had been hunting monsters for a few years since the death of their mother, and a mysterious hunt takes him away from the boys for a few days. Instead of leaving them with the usual people (Uncle Bobby or Uncle Jim), John leaves them with a woman he seems unusually intimate with – a fact that bothers Dean, and not only because this woman seems completely unaware of the supernatural. Before the few days with this woman are over, Dean and Sammy learn some hard lessons about the hunter life.
TW: Descriptions of violence and some blood and gore.
Disclaimer: Supernatural belongs to Kripke and the CW. This story is fanfiction written for zero profit.
Humid air whipped through the open windows of a 1967 Chevy Impala roaring down the South Dakota highway. The wind disturbed the hot, suffocating blanket the air had become in the interior of the car for a few precious seconds before abandoning the passengers once more to sweaty misery.
The air conditioning in the Impala had gone out, again, leaving John Winchester and his two young boys drenched and tense.
In his ‘grown-up’ car seat in the back, four year old Sam Winchester shifted restlessly, rubbing his sweaty palms across his damp t-shirt. His unruly too long bangs hung in his eyes, nearly obscuring them from view. He let out a small, nearly silent sigh, but even with the wind rushing past the open windows of the Impala, his brother, Dean, in the front seat turned to face him, alerted to his dissatisfaction by the low sound.
“Are you okay, Sammy?” Dean, at eight, was already showing signs of being at least six feet when full grown. His startling green eyes barely distracted from the freckles that dusted whimsically across his face, in sharp contrast to the no-nonsense military sanctioned haircut he sported and the too-adult look in his eyes.
Sammy was tiny by comparison, almost too small for his age, and wilting quickly under the heat.
“Do you need more water, Sammy?”
“We’re not stopping, Dean”
Dean turned his head to stare at his father, whom, until he spoke, had been driving stone faced and silent. John Winchester was in a mood, again, one Dean could never really identify but always secretly hated. John had been silent and tense the entire drive, recovering reluctantly from a hangover, and barely trying to hold a decent conversation with either Sam or Dean. When the air went out at the beginning of their latest road trip to nowhere, John had stopped at gas stations and lonely highway diners more often than he ever had before, carrying Sammy into the cool air and buying him and Dean ice cream cones and jugs of cool water. He even allowed Sammy to hold ice packs in the back seat, never complaining about the condensation that dripped onto the leather seats.
Dean had been pleasantly surprised – and hopeful. Sometimes John went into a mood for months at a time and he feared his father would one day never come out of them. The moods were worse when they came after John was smiling, easy mannered, or even just a little bit affectionate. To Dean, it almost seemed like John forgot something, just for a little while, and remembering it stoked a rage that burned everyone around him.
Dean almost forgot too, that the moods could come back, until the call yesterday morning. John had stepped outside, reminding the boys to lock the door, even though he would be standing in front of the motel room, telephone to his ear, the cord extended almost to snapping, and caught between the door jamb and the closed door. Sammy had been too excited to do anything else except climb on the chair by the window and gaze at his father’s silhouette. There was a fair in whatever nameless town they were in, and John had promised they’d go for a few hours, after he looked at the car to see what he could do about the air conditioning. Dean had been fairly confident John could fix the air and they would soon be on their way to fun and candy. He wasn’t that excited about the fair, at least not for himself, but Sammy’s elation was getting to him and Dean found himself hopeful and sick to his stomach with nervousness all at once.
One moment John was their father, and the next he walked back into the room, thunder in his expression and his body so tightly wound Dean could see the cords of his muscles every time he moved. With a terse, ‘I’m going out,’ John grabbed his jacket and walked out the door, not to come back for another few hours, drunk and silent.
Dean had held a sobbing Sammy until the little boy fell asleep.
Hours later, after ordering the boys into the car and driving non-stop for what seemed like forever, John sat staring straight ahead, almost visibly avoiding the accusing stare of his oldest boy.
“We’re out of water, Dad.”
“It won’t be long now, Dean. He can wait.”
“Sammy could get sick-”
There was venom in John’s voice, his anger coursing out of his mouth with Dean’s name. Dean felt the slap of it as if John had actually raised a hand to him and sat back in his seat, close-mouthed and pale. He risked a glance back at Sammy, who sat wide-eyed and limp, his head lolling toward his right shoulder. His gaze flicked between the back of his father’s head and Dean’s resigned expression, but he never said a word after admitting his thirst. He knew when to be silent.
Dean faced forward again and resolutely stared straight ahead, at times surreptitiously flicking his gaze toward the odometer, counting down the miles until they reached their destination.
A few, silent, hot hours later, John pulled off the state highway onto a smaller, yet busy road boxed in on either side by sprawling neighborhoods.
Dean’s eyes widened as he watched the larger, well-tended houses fly past as John maneuvered the winding roads with a tense recklessness that betrayed his impatience.
“We’re not going to Bobby’s?” This new development was strange enough for Dean to risk speaking before John’s implied ban of talking was lifted.
“No. She’s a friend.” John said.
Dean blinked at his father, surprised both that his father answered only somewhat testily and that he said ‘she’.
Dean opened his mouth, intense curiosity trying to force words out of his throat, but John spoke first, quickly and with finality.
“Her name’s Tinsley. I met her a while back. She knows about you boys and when I called to see if she’d watch you she said yes. Bobby’s out of town; can’t be helped. She doesn’t know anything, Dean.”
This John said with emphasis, taking his eyes off the road to eye Dean meaningfully. Dean felt his jaw slacken with surprise.
Their father was leaving them with a woman who didn’t know about what went bump in the night? Their paranoid, strict, and militant father who taught them to distrust strangers and always be prepared for an attack was leaving them with a civilian?
Dean opened his mouth and then closed it with an audible snap. John slid his gaze toward him in warning.
Besides the cardinal rule of never trusting a stranger, the next cardinal rule in the Winchester lexicon was to never discuss the supernatural in front of Sammy. As it stood, Sammy had no clue what his father really did when he left them with Uncle Bobby or Uncle Jim, or locked in seedy motel rooms.
Apparently, this same rule would apply to this Tinsley person, and Dean wondered briefly how his father came to know a woman with no knowledge of the supernatural . . . Dean wrinkled his nose and pressed his head back into the worn leather of his seat. Dean was eight, but he wasn’t stupid.
“When you go to sleep at night, put salt lines at the doors and windows like I taught you. She thinks . . . it’s a compulsion of yours. Just go with that, okay Dean?”
Dean stared blankly at the dashboard, his anger nearly blurring his vision with its sudden strength. Yet Dean nodded, jaw clenched, and Dean felt the brush of his father’s gaze once more, and then, to his shock, his father’s fingers in his hair.
“I don’t think there’s anything you need to worry about but there’s no excuse for your guard to go down, you hear me, son?”
Dean nodded mutely and John took this as acquiescence . He placed his hand back on the wheel. Dean tightened his muscles, willing himself not to lean after his father’s hand as if begging for another touch.
“I’m thirsty.” Sammy’s voice came soft, unsure. Dean turned to look at his brother and then at his father, trying desperately to keep the accusation out of his eyes. John glanced in the rear view mirror, the skin around his eyes tight, but answered Sam in a soft tone that echoed his son’s.
“Almost there, Sam.”
Dean hear a small sigh escape Sam but no other sound floated from the back seat and the car filled with silence.
A few more miles and John turned off the highway, weaving through traffic before turning once again into a suburban neighborhood. Dean’s eyes widened as he stared at, what were to him, gigantic houses with too-green lawns and nice cars parked in the driveway.
“We’re here.” John said, as he turned onto a small gravel drive that led to a house set back a little ways away from the street. The house was a two story, with a bay window on the second floor, and a red door made more prominent by the off white siding covering the house. The lawn to the left side of the gravel drive was well manicured, and the twenty acres or so of wood that acted as a barrier between the neighborhood and the main thoroughfare to town brought an atmosphere of isolation to the lot despite the dense population of the neighborhood. The house stood at the end of the street, the last house on the left.
“Wow” Dean heard Sammy gasp. “I love it!”
Dean bit his lip to keep from grinning. Sammy was at the stage where he either hated something passionately or loved it devoutly, with no rhyme or reason to which he chose. Hopefully, Sammy’s delight in the house would stave off any tantrums when John left.
John let out a relieved sigh and a small bark of laughter and Dean could tell that the same thought had gone through John’s mind as well.
“Come on, we’ll go see Tinsley first and then we’ll bring in your stuff.”
John stepped out of the car and headed to the front door, leaving Dean to scramble out of the passenger seat and open the back door to unbuckle Sammy. Sammy wiggled in anticipation as Dean manipulated the complicated buckles of the car seat, thirst apparently momentarily forgotten.
“Finally,” Dean muttered as the last buckle released and without warning Sammy launched himself into Dean’s arms. Dean grunted, half anticipating Sammy’s leap, and managed to shut the door with the boy still in his arms.
“Stop fooling around!” John scolded, already at the door. He slapped the doorbell irritably as he watched Dean struggle up the steps of the porch with Sammy quiet, but excited, in his arms.
“Who is this house?” Sammy said.
“Whose house is this?” Dean corrected softly.
Before Sammy could retort, or John admonish them once more, the red door swung open with a crash, followed by exuberant laughter.
“John! Boys! You’re here!”
Dean gaped at the young woman who answered the door. Her hair swept down to her shoulders in styled waves, back as tar against her pale skin and light blue t-shirt. Her jeans were too long, the cuffs flowing almost to her toes, the edges ripped and worn away from constantly being walked on.
Tinsley leaped forward and threw her arms around John’s neck. “I’m so glad you’re here.” Stepping back, she pecked John quickly on the lips and giggled when he looked slightly scandalized.
Sammy let out a small gasp at the intimate contact and Dean tightened his hold. At the sound, however, Tinsley turned her attention to the boys.
“Oh, how adorable are you? But, my God, you look soaked! Is that sweat?” Clicking her tongue, Tinsley reached out and took Sammy right out of Dean’s arms. “You poor thing!” she said, as John grabbed Dean’s shoulder before he could leap forward. “You must be miserable!”
“And you must be Dean! How cute!” Settling Sammy on one hip, Tinsley reached out a hand and ruffled Dean’s hair. Turning swiftly, she walked back into the house, Sammy held securely in her arms, calling over her shoulder, “Come in!”
As Dean watched Tinsley disappear into the house he turned a glare toward his father, who amazingly, was grinning at him in amusement. “You might want to comb your hair, there, son.” John said easily, and then followed Tinsley into the house.
*Originally posted on previous blog on June 26, 2019