“What is that
?” The speaker was a boy, a year or two older than Dean. People had been stopping by their table all afternoon, but they had yet to spot the demon. They had split up almost as soon as they hit the gym; Dean and Sid heading to their assigned table near the door to the fields, and Winchester going off to prowl the floor looking menacing. The place was packed, students and their parents milling about, studying the various projects on their bunting-covered tables. It made their search for the demon like looking for a needle in a moving, brightly-colored haystack. They were getting no where.
“It’s a remote control arm,” Dean explained. The other boy must have been the hundredth person he had said that to today, but you couldn’t hear it in Dean’s voice. “See?” he said, picking up the controller to demonstrate. Dean might not be tired of all the attention yet, but if Sid had his arm moved one more time like that, he might have to hit someone.
“That’s really cool,” the other boy exclaimed. “It must have taken you forever,” he said sympathetically. “What with the research and the build time.”
Dean worried his lower lip and glanced furtively around to see if anyone was listening in. “Actually,” he quietly confided in the other boy, “I pretty much pulled it out of my ass. Got the idea when I saw the dummy in a pawn shop, and just threw it together in a couple of hours.”
The older boy’s eyes widened in surprise. “Wow,” he sounded genuinely impressed, “you must be really smart.” Dean flushed and looked shyly down at the compliment, but something in the kid’s voice put Sid on alert. He hadn’t just sounded impressed, he’d sounded almost hungry. “Hey, want to see my project?” he suggested eagerly.
“What is it?” Dean asked and Sid wanted to scream at him. There was something seriously wrong with this kid. He was just pushy and predatory enough to be their demon. Sid couldn’t afford to give himself away, but he needed some way to warn Dean.
The suspected demon’s smile was wide and wolf-ish. “It’s a human brain,” he said. “Well,” he hedged, “a model of one anyway.”
Don’t go, Dean, Sid mentally screamed at the boy. But the demon was right; Dean was smart and the thing’s ploy was about as subtle as a brick through the front window. “Ah, that sounds really neat,” Dean said with wary politeness. “I’ll be sure to check it out in a bit.”
The demon reached out to grab Dean’s arm. “I want you to see it now,” it said, pulling the smaller boy in close.
Dean looked down at the hand gripping his arm and gulped. “Christos,” he whispered, looking back up.
The holy word did not go over well. Christos usually turned most demons’ eyes black, but this one’s eyes turned golden with slit pupils like a cat’s. It tightened its grip on Dean’s arm with an angry snarl and spun the smaller boy around to hug him to its chest. “Sid,” Dean managed to gasp before the demon clamped a hand over his mouth. Dean tried to put up a fight, biting down on the demon’s hand and slamming it in the stomach with his elbow, but neither even slowed it down as it pulled him towards the exit. The table jumped as the boy kicked in a last ditch attempt, but no one heard it over the general din and no one moved to help as he was dragged outside.
“Winchester,” Sid bellowed as the door slammed shut. “ It’s got Dean!” He couldn’t spot the man in the crowd and he couldn’t afford wait. Sid leapt to the floor, shedding bits of Dean’s contraption as he went, and dove under the table in search of the knife. By the time he had it in his grip, Winchester was there looking wild-eyed and furious.
“Where is he?” the man demanded, pulling the machete clear of his bag.
Several nearby people screamed at the sight, but both hunters ignored them. “Out there,” Sid gestured with the knife. They’d have to move fast to save Dean, kill the demon and get the hell out of here before the cops showed up.
They hit the door at a dead run, but the sight that awaited them outside made them draw up short. Dean was on his knees, dazed and clutching his right arm to his chest with the beginnings of what promised to be a spectacular bruise blooming across his face. The demon loomed over him, a large rock in its hand. Bashing someone’s head in was a messy and difficult way to get someone’s brains, and Sid figured they weren’t the only ones who’s day wasn’t going as planned.
“Dean,” Winchester roared beside him, completely ruining the element of surprise. The demon whirled around with a growl. Its eyes had not changed back to the more human hazel, and the patches of dark green skin on its face made it clear that it was running out of time.
Dean used the distraction to his advantage, gaining his feet and taking a left-handed swing at the back of the demon’s head with a rock of his own. Enraged but not particularly hurt, the demon turned back to his original prey and backhanded the boy to the ground. Winchester, meanwhile, charged into the fray with a wordless yell of anger. The demon spun to meet him, seizing his wrist and using the man’s own momentum to toss him onto his son. It picked up the machete Winchester had dropped and prepared to deal with the both of them.
That’s when Sid struck. He came in quickly while the thing’s back was turned and slashed fast and hard across the tendons in the back of its legs, effectively hamstringing it. The demon crashed to its knees with a yelp of surprise and pain, the machete tumbling from its grasp. The demon spun on its knee and swept Sid into a bone-crushing embrace. Sid, of course, didn’t have bones but he could hear his wooden frame starting to creak when the tip of the machete ruffled his hair as it passed through the demon’s neck.
The demon’s illusion shattered with its death leaving a scaly green monster slumped on top of Sid with its severed head lying a few feet away. Sid could see Winchester over the stump of the demon’s neck, his chest heaving and his eyes wide. He couldn’t spot Dean, but Sid could tell that neither of them would be up for the next part. He squirmed out from under the demon’s bulk and went for the knife. “You have to get the heart,” he reminded as he plunged the blade into the thing’s chest.
“Did we get it?” Dean gasped. The boy was on his feet, but swaying and so pale that each of his freckles stood out like spots of brown paint. “Is it dead?”
“Yeah, son,” Winchester assured him, looking to where Sid was busy slicing the demon’s heart into bits. “It’s dead.”
“Good,” Dean pronounced and fell to the grounded in a dead faint.****
Three hours later, they were sitting in the parking lot outside St. Joseph’s Hospital in the neighboring town of Elmira. They all looked like crap; Dean with his broken arm, Winchester with his bruises and Sid with his demon-blood spattered suit. “I guess we’re moving now, hu?” Dean quipped, fingering the edge of his pristine white cast.
“Looks like.” Winchester didn’t even look at his son as he started the car. The engine sputtered for a moment, but then come to life with a roar and a blast of power chords from the radio. The man turned it off with a brutal snap of his wrist, plunging the car into tense silence.
“Sammy’s gonna be pissed,” Dean observed.
Winchester threw the car into reverse, never making eye contact with his son. “He’ll get over it.” If he’s father’s tone was anything to go by, he’d have to.
Dean took a deep breath, looking for all the world like he wanted to cry. “I’m sorry I screwed up,” he whispered, depression and defeat in every line of his body.
“What are you talking about?” Sid knew he was coming off as aggressively cheerful by comparison, but the kid had no real reason to be beating himself up like he was. Okay, so things hadn’t gone exactly according to plan, but Dean had handled himself as well as anyone Sid had worked with who wasn’t the Slayer. “We got the damn thing, didn’t we?” Sure, the kid’s arm was broken, but any fight you could walk away from when the other guy couldn’t was a win in Sid’s book.
Not in this family apparently. The two of them continued to wallow in their angst like Sid hadn’t even spoken. “We’ll have to work on your hand-to-hand,” Winchester told his son. “Get you up to scratch on your left side,” he added, actually glancing for the first time at his son’s broken right arm before turning sharply away.
“Yes, sir,” Dean agreed tonelessly as the car turned left onto Church Street heading towards Route 17, Horseheads and their soon-to-be-former home.
Winchester’s hands were tight on the steering wheel and his jaw looked clenched hard enough to crack nuts. He looked over to where his son sat dejected with Sid in his lap and released some of that tension with a deep sigh. “We were gonna move soon anyway,” he told the boy as they rolled to a stop at a red light. “I found a job up in Maine.” From the way he said job, Sid knew he meant a hunt and not gainful employment.
“Really?” Dean asked, like somehow that would make it better.
What is wrong with this family, Sid wondered as he looked from one Winchester to the other. From what he remembered, his own old man hadn’t been into the new-age touchy-feely crap all those dad’s had on television these days, but he’d usually known the right thing to say. Dean needed some parental approval, maybe even a hug, but he didn’t know how to ask for it and Winchester sure as hell didn’t know how to give it. It practically bordered on tragic. “Guess we’ve all got a new hunt,” Sid grumbled just so he’d have something to say.
“But you’re coming with us, Sid, right?” Dean asked, worry and need plain in his voice.
Sid opened his mouth but hesitated. He usually left his helpers after they had made the kill, but this was the first time since he’d been a dummy that he had worked with another hunter. Clearly the kid had a few more years to go before he should really be doing this job, but, even though they didn’t exactly get along, Sid knew he could accomplish a lot working with his old man.
“He has his own hunt, Dean,” Winchester told his son in a tone that brooked no argument. “Hutchins,” he finally decided to consult Sid himself, “where can I drop you off?”
Sid thought about protesting. He liked the boy and he liked having a place to live. On the other hand, a few more week’s of this family’s simmering tension and manly angst and Sid would be tearing his plastic hair out. “Bus station,” he said.
Winchester made a u-turn on the mostly empty street, taking them back towards downtown Elmira and the station. The town being what it was, it didn’t take them long to get there. The man put the car in park, and Dean got out with Sid. He set the dummy down on a bench and sat down next to him. They sat for a moment in companionable silence, listening to the Impala rumble with its driver’s impatience.
“You did good, kid,” Sid told the boy beside him. “You came up with that project, you kept your shit together and you got the job done.” It was the god’s honest truth and Dean needed to hear it from someone.
The boy reacted to the praise like he always did; a shy little head-duck and a general air of awkwardness. His head stayed down for a long moment, and when he looked up, his eyes were glistening and his smile was tight. “Good luck, Sid,” he said. “Maybe I’ll see you around.”
“Yeah, sure, kid,” Sid agreed, but, as he watched the car pull away, he knew he wouldn’t.