*Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, their characters and concepts belong to their respective creators. I just own the DVD's.*
San Francisco, California
Sid Hutchins had been hunting for nearly ten years before the Slayer walked into his office nine months ago but, at the moment, it didn’t look like either of them would be doing much of anything after tonight. Jisue was a goner for sure. From the angle of her neck as she lay on the floor, Sid knew there was a new Slayer was being called. Of course, he wasn’t much better off. His hands were slick from his futile attempt to hold his intestines in and his vision was starting to turn black at the edges. As the looming demon him raised its blood soaked claws and began to chant, Sid figured his hunting days were over. Boy, was he wrong. ****
Horseheads, New York
The boy looked sharply up from the battered knife he’d been inspecting and scanned the room for whoever had called him. Unsurprisingly, his eyes slid right past Sid where he sat on the shelf. Sid sighed. The thing he hated most about being a ventriloquist’s dummy, aside from the part where he couldn’t eat, sleep or get laid, was that he needed a human assistant to do practically everything. That was why he was sitting in a pawn shop in the town he’d tracked the demon to. People came here to shop for junk and he came here to shop for them. This kid was eleven, maybe twelve, and sort of scruffy looking, but the careful way he handled and examined the knife made him a likelier candidate than half the ones Sid had worked with before.
“Over here,” he called and gave a little wave to make sure the boy knew who was talking.
The kid’s eyes went as wide as saucers and his mouth gaped in shock at the sight. He recovered pretty quickly though, glancing first to where his old man was haggling over the price of some tacky silver jewelry and then to the corner where his younger brother was looking at books before heading over to Sid’s shelf. He approached cautiously, like he expected Sid to attack, and gave the dummy an experimental poke.
“You want to buy me,” Sid told the boy. Over the years he had found that, at this stage of the relationship, his helpers were usually freaked out enough to do what they were told.
Not this one though. “Dude,” he sneered, “I’m not gonna buy some evil, talking doll
“I’m a ventriloquist’s dummy,” Sid corrected with all the dignity a wooden puppet can muster.
“Whatever.” The boy’s disdain was clear. And then it was gone, replaced by suspicion and anger. His freckled face was suddenly menacing as he hissed “Christos” with surprising venom.
If Sid’s glass eyes could get any wider than open, they would have been huge. How did a kid like this know a trick like that? Sid’s eyes slid to the father. The man looked intense, focused, haunted. Sid could remember seeing that in the mirror back when he was human. With a face like that and a kid who knew how to check for possession, Sid wouldn’t be too surprised if the silver was for bullets and not just a cheap gift for the missus. It had been a long while since he’d run into another hunter, let alone a hunter’s whelp, but it might be a good thing, provided they didn’t just set him on fire. “Relax, kid,” he reassured the boy. “I’m on the level.”
Apparently that wasn’t the slang any more. God, he missed the ‘30's. “I’m a hunter,” Sid explained with a sigh.
“But you’re a do...ah..ventriloquists–”
“Hey, Dean, who ya talking to?” Sid’s jump of surprise almost sent him tumbling from the shelf. How had the little kid managed to sneak up on them, he wondered as he struggled to right himself without being noticed. The two of them must have been pretty wrapped up in their conversation to miss the younger brother’s approach. Sid had been facing the room after all, and a six-year-old with floppy brown hair and a bright yellow t-shirt with mutant turtles should be impossible not to notice.
“No one.” The automatic lie was practically reflexive. The kid, Dean apparently, looked almost as thrown as Sid but rallied quickly enough with a fairly smooth line of bull. “I was, ah, just seeing if I have what it takes to be a ventriloquist.”
The younger boy’s face was caught somewhere between incredulous and appalled. “Could you be a bigger freak?”
“I don’t know, could you be a bigger nerd?” Dean taunted back, gesturing to the large book the younger boy clutched to his chests.
“Shut up.” The boy frowned furiously for an instant before rocketing from angry to excited in less than a heartbeat. “Do you think Dad will let me get it?” he asked, bouncing slightly.
“You could ask,” Dean suggested pointedly. “So,” he turned back to Sid as his brother scampered off, “where were we?”
“I’m a hunter. There was a curse and a demon and I need your help to kill it,” Sid summed up.
Sid usually took a while to work up to the demon part. After all, most of his helpers had enough trouble just wrapping their minds around a talking dummy. By the time he got around to it, most of the kids he had worked with said things like, why me or how do you kill a demon, but this one was different. This one was a hunter's son, and a smart-mouthed little punk at that. “So, he snarked, “other than turning hunters into doll, sorry, ventriloquist’s dummies
, what does this demon do?”
“It kills children.” The smirk slid of the boy’s face as his eyes went to where his brother was trying to persuade their father to buy the book with the sheer force of puppy-dog eyes alone. “Look, Dean. It is Dean, isn’t it?” Sid continued at Dean’s nod. “I’m Sid. This thing, this demon? It goes to schools and it kills kids. I need someone who can get me in so I can hunt it down. Can you do that?”
Dean worried his lower lip for a minute before he finally nodded. “I can help you,” he agreed. He reached out like he wanted to shake on it but grabbed the price tag hanging from Sid’s wrist instead. “I can help,” he repeated, more firmly this time, “but no way I’m shelling out fifty bucks.” He considered the dummy for a moment. “Can you walk?” he asked and grinned at Sid’s nod. “The car’s a black ‘67 Impala. I’ll meet you out there.”
Decision made and plans established, the kid simply turned to join his family like he talked to demon-hunting dummies every day. Sid smiled to himself as he yanked the price tag from his wrist and jumped silently down from the shelf. He had a good feeling about this one.****
Sid hadn’t been expecting much. Hunting, he recalled from his pre-dummy days, paid jack, but the crappy apartment one step up from the type of dives where he used to photograph cheating husbands and the home-cooked meal made by an eleven-year-old boy still came as a surprise. Sid watched the entire meal from the discomfort of a flower box outside the kitchen window filled with wet, dead leaves and wished they’d hurry up. By the time Dean let him in after his brother had gone to read and his father had driven off, Sid’s suit was filthy and damp. They were quiet as Dean filled the sink with dirty dishes and Sid attempted to clean himself off. “So,” the boy said in a low voice as he turned on the water. “Tell me about this demon.”
“There were seven of them originally,” Sid began. “I’ve killed five.” He was pleased to note that Dean looked suitably impressed. “They take human form. Near as I can figure, this one looks twelve, maybe thirteen. And no,” he preempted as Dean opened his mouth, “I don’t know what it looks like. Every seven years they have to kill to keep up the illusion, and guess what?”
“Seven years are up?” Dean hazarded. It wasn’t that hard to figure out, even for an eleven-year-old, which probably accounted for the sarcasm. “Are you sure the illusion thing is why it kills people?” he asked with a slight frown. “I mean, twelve or thirteen? That’s seventh grade. I know if I had to be in middle school forever, I’d probably be a homicidal maniac.” Sid’s eyebrows rose to his hairline. Now this was his type of smart ass. “Oh come on,” protested Dean, clearly misinterpreting Sid’s silence. “Do you even remember middle school?”
It had been a long, long while, but yeah, Sid could dimly recall that prepubescent hell. Middle School may drive people crazy, but they had a job to do, and that really wasn’t the point. “If they want to keep looking human, they a brain and a heart,” Sid brought the conversation back on task.
“That runner, Gus Hillman,” Dean murmured to himself, his eyes unfocused and his hand swiping the sponge round and round an already clean plate. “He had his heart cut out last night. Wait,” he whirled back towards Sid, his voice sharp. “You mean Dad’s werewolf is your demon?”
The death was news to Sid, but it wasn’t exactly a shock. He knew the demon was here and its time was running out. It figured Dean’s old man thought the dead kid was a werewolf kill, though. Between the heart and last night’s moon, if Sid didn’t know better, he’d be stocking up on silver too. “Yeah,” Sid told the boy with a sigh. The clock was ticking now. They’d have to move fast if they wanted to catch the damn thing before it got what it wanted and moved on. “It’ll be after a nice, smart brain next, and it’ll be after it soon.”
“How smart we talking?” Dean asked. “The science fair is Saturday,” he explained as he moved the plate to the dish drainer. “They’ll be loads of smart kids there. That soon enough?”
“Oh, yeah.” The demon would be there, probably with a project designed to crack someone’s scull open for easy brain stealing. Sid could feel it in his non-existent bones. “How do we enter? We’ve got to get in there.” The only way to get the thing would be to catch it in the act. Too many chances for mistaken identity otherwise.
“The projects are due tomorrow,” Dean explained. “There’s so many kids, only the best in each class get to go.”
“What’s yours?” Sid hoped it wasn’t something stupid or cliché like a baking soda volcano. If they wanted to get in, it would have to be good.
But Dean looked embarrassed and defensive, and that didn’t bode well. “I was going to blow it off,” he admitted with a shrug. “It’s not like it’s important anyway.”
As a responsible adult, Sid knew he should say something in support of academia and actually doing homework, but, as a puppet who had never been much of a scholar, he opted not to bother. “Well,” he decided to say instead, “it’s important now.”
“Don’t worry,” Dean assured him. “ I’ll come up with something. Yeah,” he said with a slow nod and slightly unfocused eyes, “I’ll come up with something really cool.”
Despite his confident words, there was something in Dean’s face, uncertainty, maybe a little fear, that made Sid worry. “What?” he demanded. If this kid couldn’t pull it off, couldn’t get them in, Sid needed to know it now.
“I can do it,” Dean insisted. “I can get us in. It’s just that” – he hesitated, worrying his lower lip– “I...I’ve never killed anything before.” The quiet admission was barely audible over the running water. “I can use a gun though,” he said hurriedly to cover the shame of his innocence. “I’m a really good shot. My Dad says so. Better than some Marines even. I just haven’t...I never–”
“It’s okay, kid.” When it came to the demon, his little helpers were usually so scared, but this boy was so calm and almost, well, professional, that it was easy to forget he was just a child. Sid couldn’t expect an eleven-year-old to kill this demon, even the son of a hunter, and frankly, he didn’t want him to. This was his fight, his quest. All he wanted was someone to carry him around, not to get blood on their hands. “I’ll handle the demon,” Sid reassured the boy. “You just get us in.”
The kid nodded, clearly relieved. “I can–”
“Dean.” The boy fumbled the plate he was washing as the childish voice interrupted them from behind. This was the second time today and it seemed the kid had a real knack for sneaking up on people. It was the kind of habit that was good for hunting but also might just get him shot.
“Sam.” From the startled guilt in Dean’s voice you’d think Sam had caught him watching porn. Sid wondered what his problem was. After all, considering what their dad did, it wasn’t like the kid had never heard a conversation about demons before.
“Hey,” said the little boy, standing on his tippy-toes to examine Sid. “Isn’t that the dummy from the store?” His face crumpled in confusion. “What’s it doing here?”
Dean turned back to washing dishes. “He followed me home,” he told his brother with enough sarcasm to make the truth sound like an ironic lie.
The look little Sam turned on his brother would be annoyingly bitchy on an adult, but on him just looked cute. “Why would anyone steal something that creepy?” he asked, reaching out to poke Sid in the stomach.
“What’s the matter, Samantha,” Dean taunted. “You scared? God,” – he rolled his eyes – “you are such a girl.”
“Oh, yeah?” Sam shot back. “I’m not the one with a doll
“He’s a ventriloquist’s dummy,” Dean angrily defended both Sid and his own manhood.
“Dean has a doll,” Sam sing-songed. “Dean is a girl.”
“Shut up,” Dean shouted, slamming down the pot he was washing. He whirled to face his brother. “Take it back before I kick your ass.”
Sam just shook his head and laughed. “I’m not scared of some big girl,” he mocked.
“Oh, yeah?” Dean aggressively pushed his sleeves back. Sam got the hint this time and began to back away, but not fast enough. “Would a girl do this?” Dean yelled as he caught the younger boy in a flying tackle. They hit the floor with a loud thump and a cacophony of childish shrieking. Sid watched the boys tussle on the floor and sighed. The dishes still weren’t done and Sam wasn’t taking it back, even with the tickle-torture. Something told Sid it would be a while before Dean got to his science project. He reached out to turn off the water and wondered when their father would get home.