Rating: PG - Gen- teen!chesters
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Other kids got cake. John had gotten his boy plastered.
Don't you open that door Dean.
John Winchester watched the astaroth hover noiselessly over the door frame, coiling blackly and spreading across the ceiling like smoke. If Dean just passed by and didn't startle it, it wouldn't strike. The bastards were like sharks or a bear, it wouldn't risk injury to itself if it didn't have to. It was smart enough to know that John had come packing with something that could make even something like it, bleed. It could bleed of course. It wasn't the Astaroth, but a creature named after the demon's legions. Nasty stuff that you avoided if you were smart.
Dean to his credit hadn't called out his father's name or even switched on the heavy flashlight John knew he had with him. In fact John was only aware of his son's presence because he just knew what to listen for. It was the difference between a footfall and sigh of wind. A leaf falling or the movement of prey. A good hunter always knew the difference.
Even now he had to admire Dean's skill just a little bit. It was strange, the moments when he experienced pride for his young son. Well, not quite that young anymore. Just two weeks ago today he had been mildly stunned to realize the birthday his oldest son was not all that eager to celebrate was his 16th.
John's hands were instinctively at his neck, trying to grasp the unsubstantial wrapped limb of the beast that had a hold on him. It had heard his son as well as he had and in its nervous rage and static, it had begun to squeeze him even harder. The other hunter was still moving stealthily down the unlit cellar hallway.
Sixteen years old.
It seemed impossible that that much time had gone by. He swayed with the ebb and flow of his oxygen, his mind drifting and wandering to two weeks past. For some reason the mixed look his son had given him when he said they should maybe actually do something for his birthday had never really left him.
He had surprised them both with the suggestion to commemorate by buying his son his first beer. The first beer John was aware of anyway. Despite his youngest son being almost as tall as any adult, Sam couldn't pull off 21 no matter how good any fake IDs John had. Happily left behind, Sam had absently warned them from behind a magazine about a DWI road block that was on the police band and that was that. John and Dean had sat alone, the two of them clinked bottles in a dive that would have probably served Sammy even if he had told them he was 12.
They had talked. Mostly about the next job and where they should move next. John had wanted to ask him if he ever thought more about maybe finishing high school. But sitting there, the sticky wooden crate table between them, the blurry sound of the hopelessly outdated jukebox... He was almost ashamed to bring it up.
John had bought a bottle of whiskey and set down shot glasses. Dean's grin made him push his thoughts away for the time being. Jesus, when had the boy started to look so god damn much like Mary?
A woman had walked by and John watched his oldest son's eyes follow her to the bar. There was no innocent curiosity there. There was no confusion or awkwardness. He had no illusions what his teenaged boy might be up to while John spent days and weeks away, but the revelation of the adult his child had grown into was startling. He had suddenly felt like an old man. He hoped that there was room in Dean's life for something more than what he was sure played constantly on his young male mind. Did Dean know what it was to have a woman fall in love with him? Had Dean ever fallen right back? Would Dean even know how? Mary would have known just by looking into their son's eyes.
They had gotten drunk, John helping his son into the passenger side of the car before he passed out right in the parking lot. He had to pull over twice so Dean could lean out the car door and be sick. He almost had to pull over a few times just for himself.
Have fun? Sam had asked with a sigh as Dean moaned over the toilet bowl and puked beer, Jack Daniels and pretzels.
Other kids got cake. John had gotten his boy plastered. He had wished he had told Dean that there was a present for him but he just didn't know it yet. He could do better than just make the kid throw up. He had always planned on handing over the Impala to his oldest son when he came of age. Whenever that was. For a second he had considered leaving the keys by Dean's bedside but he pocketed them instead before he shut off the light.
Some other day.
Funny how there always seems like there will always be a better time. Funny how you never knew when your days might just suddenly and abruptly, run out. Like right now, in this dusty damn backwater town down in some dank basement.
His thoughts moved sluggishly over and over on what in his carried arsenal might be affective when he heard a distinct sound. A door very near by had been quietly opened and then closed. John froze knowing the subtle sound of Dean's tentative search and inspection.
The astaroth's renewed strength in its cold grasp on him made him shudder and almost cry out. This was all really his fault. He had walked right into the damn thing. Not prone to making excuses for himself John Winchester had to admit, he really hadn't expected an astaroth in the middle of a town no matter how small.
Especially not in a library of all places. The things were usually drawn to darker older more natural climes. A cave or a gorge. Just like other predatory animals maybe it had just been pushed into more unlikely habitats. Unfortunately for him, a regular half witted poltergeist that liked to push old librarians down stairs had turned out to be something much less simple and for his carelessness, he was going to pay for it.
The hallway outside had grown silent of any noise at all.
John could almost see his older son. Standing there listening intently, wondering why his father had not returned to the car where he had told him to watch for any local heat.
Dean, don't you open that damn door...
The doorknob began to twist open and John braced himself. If he tried to warn him now, the astaroth would finish the job it had started at constricting his windpipe, if he waited too long Dean might not have a chance to--
As soon as the door swung open John felt the crushing grip around his throat vanish.
Ironically, Dean stepping right into its path was maybe the only reason John wouldn't end up dead himself.
The rifle Dean held discharged as it struck the ground, blasting iron rounds into the wall by John's head, the flash of it lighting up the room and blinding him momentarily. He heard his son curse angrily as he was enveloped and constricted, the astaroth's speed too great for him to avoid even if he had been warned.
Seconds after the confusion ended, it was silent, the acrid scent of gun smoke hanging in the air. The only sound in the room was his son's frantic breathing and the creaking of the door as it swung on its rusted hinges. Flowing over Dean's body, the vaporous creature let out a sharp hiss, the dull red glow of its eyes trained on the older man who had retrieved his own gun from off the floor.
"Don't move Dean." John told him. Fighting seemed to fuel the thing's ire like wood on a fire. If Dean stayed passive it might buy him some time.
John watched Dean immediately still himself, his fists clenched as the black tendrils around his neck began to seep in icy strands over his face, covering his eyes and mouth. His boy never did panic in the middle of a hunt but there was always a first time. John just hoped Dean could keep his cool long enough for him to save his life.
John thought fast as the astaroth began to drift back up into the corner of the room taking his son with it. Unable to see, Dean made a small startled sound when his boots left the floor.
"Dean." John warned.
Even if his son wasn't directly in his way he knew shooting it wouldn't do much besides piss it off and drive it somewhere where he'd never find it again. John quickly slipped out a small battered book from inside his jacket and flipped it where a paperclip had bunched a chapter together. Above him, it had started to spread its many phantom limbs, anchoring itself like a giant grotesque spider. Slowly, it started to creep towards the ventilation seemingly to know that John wouldn't be so hasty with the gun now that it had a victim. The vent came loose and clattered loudly to the floor. The astaroth liked to bring its victims into close dark places like the caves they usually lay hidden in. If it pulled Dean in there he would have no chance of following it.
Now or never as they say.
Without thinking John uttered a series of Latin words. They came naturally to his lips, automatic as reloading his pistols, or a pull to the trigger when he knew he had his target. Words he'd read and reread late one night and had committed to memory. It stayed some evils. Froze them for one moment until its echo faded from the air. It wasn't much but it was worth a try.
To his amusement it actually worked.
Enraged, it's body boiled, rippled and spread, and Dean suddenly started breathlessly struggling like his father ordered him not too. The inky mass of it flowed over his face and body like water, he was trying to push it away, his face emerging and disappearing as he thrashed.
"I know it hurts son, but damn it, don't move!" He hissed. The thing might not even bother taking Dean at this point, it might just snap his neck right here. He realized the book was shaking in his hands and he forced himself to concentrate. There was a Navajo prayer he had read might work... where the hell was it...
There was real fear in that voice. As much as a man his son had become, it was just as startling to see there was still a lot of the boy he still was in there too.
"I can't-I can't see.." Dean choked.
John trained his key light on the fingerprint smeared pages. Found it.
Dean had gone silent, vanished somewhere in the heart of the roiling mass of its body..
The prayer came as easily as the Latin had, word after word, syllable after syllable ... It was anti-climatic sometimes what the prayers did. There was no thunderclap, no wind, no welling of choir or even a noise. Just several moments as the creature seemed to fold neatly in and in on top of itself until there was nothing left. John let out the breath he was holding when there was finally not a trace of it left at all.
Released, Dean fell and slid down the wall, slumping down to the floor heavily and limply. John's flashlight flickered on weakly where it still lay on the floor. Knocked out of his hands and darkened when he had unintentionally interrupted the spirit however many countless minutes ago. It shone starkly on Dean's slack face, the white cold marks of the creatures grip crisscrossed his throat and face.
John was relieved to hear the boy groan as he sat Dean up, checking his pulse and turning his chin side to side for any wounds.
"Did we...did we get 'em?" His son asked hopefully in a daze, his eyes flickering open.
John pulled him up. "Sure did. Let's beat it before cops show up..." He stooped to retrieve Dean's rifle and slung it across his shoulder, while dragging Dean's arm over his other one. His son stumbled beside him, the arm John had clasped was shaky and weak.
"Sorry- Sorry Dad." Dean whispered as they made their way up the basement stairs.
The parking lot was clear but he was sure Dean's rifle could have been heard by a nearby old folks home. Experience had taught him that the elderly were on the phone with the police if the wind blew the wrong way.
"Just be more careful next time." John answered shortly. The car doors banged shut, loud in the night's silence. The rumble of the engine as he turned the key in the ignition promised them a swift exit.
Dean slouched in his seat, a cursory check around them instinctive even in his pain and disorientation. "Police station is-is down that way, if we take a left out here, we-we can blow right past 'em on the back roads and they'll never even know..."
Turning the steering wheel he took his son's advice and head lights off, they slipped down the side streets headed for the highway. The sound of sirens reached them in the distance. John shook his head to himself, glancing back in the rear view just as the black and white's flashed their lights and went zooming right past them at a cross street. Just like Dean had said. Funny when you felt pride. He almost even said so but he didn't. Instead he stayed silent and focused on the road ahead of them.
There would be a better time.