Prompt: John is too busy bossing his kids around to realize one of them is getting sick (you get to choose which one!!). Suddenly, the loud sneezing screws up a hunt and almost get the boys into trouble. John will probably be mad at first - like 'hey you almost got us all killed' - but then he sees how his kid is really sick and starts feeling guilty. The rest is up to you!! ;)
John checked his watch. If the pattern held, the county police would be passing back this way in less than an hour. So far, he’d been able to bluff their way past the road block, but pretty soon the cops were going to see his kids and start asking questions. Normal Dads didn’t take their kids out on Halloween night for research projects in the middle of the countryside.
Though the funny thing was how close to the truth that actually was. John turned to look into the backseat. “Got anything else, Sammy?”
Sam lifted his head out of the book and pulled the end of his mini flashlight out from his mouth. “No, Sir. The accounts from the ‘70s are inconsistent. Some say hatchet, others say long-handled axe. Some say it’s a Ku Klux Klan hood, others a bunny costume.”
In the driver’s seat, Dean snorted. “Bunny costume…”
Sam nodded. “Actually, the bunny costume seems to be the confirmed version in later police reports. But there are still rumors about its significance. Some people say he was a crazy escapee from a mental institution who turned cannibal and couldn’t tell the difference between rabbits and people, others say he killed his whole family on Easter—”
John interrupted his boys. “And the only thing we know for sure is that the rumors about dead rabbits hanging from nearby trees on Halloween are true.”
Sam’s flashlight snapped back to the pages in his lap. “Actually, that’s still up for debate as well.”
“Not anymore,” John said, throwing the passenger side door open and getting out of the impala. He hadn’t seen anything—not a demon, not a ghost, not even a glimmer of something supernatural—but there were definitely three dead rabbits hanging by their hind legs in a large oak tree between the road and the field beyond. Three. Oh how he wished he could believe that was just a coincidence.
He headed back to the car where his boys sat, wishing he could send them back to the motel. But he needed them both tonight.
He got back into the car, blowing on his hands to warm them. Within two minutes, it was beginning to snow.
“Dad! Look! Flurries!”
John glanced back at Sam, who quickly buried his face in the books again. His youngest knew his place, and he knew he wasn’t going to be getting out to make snowmen. John turned to Dean, who had the pieces of a shotgun spread out across his lap beneath the steering wheel. His oldest had only been driving for a few months, but already he seemed to fit behind the wheel as if he had always been meant to be there. “We’ll give it twenty minutes to show itself. We… what’s the rule, Dean?”
Dean cleared his throat but kept his eyes on the gun as he began to reassemble it. “Know what you’re dealing with, Sir.”
John nodded. “That’s right. We have to know what we’re dealing with before we can stop it. And we only get one shot with this one. It only shows itself on Halloween. If we don’t get it tonight, we’ll have to wait until next year.”
Sam kept reading the books they’d “borrowed” from the library earlier that day. Dean finished reassembling the now clean gun. And John kept his eyes on the bridge dead ahead. If there was a bunny man out there, John felt certain it would come from under the bridge.
It didn’t take twenty minutes. It didn’t even take ten.
The streetlights flickered. A cold wind picked up, stirring the snowflakes that dusted the windshield and making the three rabbits in the tree swing back and forth like pendulums.
John sprang from the car with his shotgun out. He heard the driver’s side door open as well and knew his boys were doing what they should. Dean would have his back, like always, and Sammy would get a good look at what they were fighting in order to figure out which of the legends was true. Then they’d be able to figure out what gave to track down to salt and burn. They’d done this a dozen times before, many in conditions worse than this. In the dark. In the cold. In the snow.
The space beneath the bridge was almost a perfect circle. And, right from the middle of it, came a ghost. The ghost of a grizzled old man in a ratty old bunny suit. The tail hung off his ass by a single thread. One of the ears stuck up while the other—mangled and torn—flopped down to cover some of the left side of his face. Leaves and dirt from long ago seemed to have stuck to the costume, making him seem right at home here in the dirt at the side of a road surrounded by trees. If circumstances were difference, John would have laughed at the sight. In fact, he did chuckle a little at it, to himself, until it shot forward.
The damn thing was fucking fast! And it didn’t want him. It wanted the kids. It sailed straight toward Dean, a gray and white ethereal form pulling out a silvery sharp hatchet. “You’re on private property…” Its voice was shrill but menacing. “And I have your tag number!”
Dean lifted the shotgun. Though he must have known it wasn’t going to do any good against a ghost, he aimed it at the apparition just the same. Or, at least, started to aim it. Because everything happened all at once.
Dean sneezed. Not just a little “a snowflake landed on my nose and tickled it” sort of sneeze either, but a huge damn explosion of a sneeze that bent the kid right over. And when he sneezed, his finger slipped on the gun’s trigger, so out popped a shot. It missed John by a couple feet, but if the nearby county cops hadn’t been able to hear that sneeze, they sure as hell had heard the gunshot. It startled John, but it also startled the ghost, who veered away from Dean and went straight for the car. Its dead eyes locked with Sammy’s wide ones in the backseat and it sped up.
John did the only thing he could think to do. He ran back to the car. He ran as fast as he could, knowing he couldn’t outrun the ghost but hoping he wasn’t too late. He’d never forgive himself if he was too late. He ran to the trunk, threw it open, made a grab for something, then slammed the trunk back down. Throwing himself forward, over the rear of the car, John lunged forward, spraying the contents of the open bag of salt all over the top of the car and the ghost whose natty bunny ears had already penetrated the windshield.
The ghost screamed and reared back for a second before flickering into nothingness. John fell forward, smacking his chin down against the roof of the impala with a hollow thunk. He twisted his wrist and got his front covered with rock salt damp from the snow. He rolled to the side and slid off, panting, and looked into the side window. “Sammy?” God, it hurt to talk. He rubbed his knuckles against his jaw.
“M’all right!” Sammy squeaked. “Dean?”
Dean. John stood up and looked over at his eldest, who was crouched by the side of the road. It sounded like he was coughing up a lung. Every breath in was a wheeze. Every one out was harsh and raspy. “Dean?”
Dean tried to stand. He tried and stumbled and sat his ass right down on the asphalt with another tremendous, wet sneeze.
“What the hell’s the matter with you?” John asked, storming over. “We coulda had it! But then it came after Sammy. You know the rules!”
Dean’s head bobbed up and down. “Yessir.”
“What’s the most important rule?” More important than knowing the enemy. More important than keeping the guns clean. More important than watching John’s back.
Dean looked up, the side of his hand scrubbing hard at his nostrils. “Protect Sammy.”
“Damn right. And—”
Dean sneezed again and then turned to the side with harsh, hacking coughs that sounded in no way good, let alone normal.
John heard the car door open and looked up to see Sam running to them. His younger son folded himself against Dean’s side and handed over the folded square of a cloth bandana.
Grateful, Dean took it and honked his nose into it a few times until his breathing seemed a little clearer. Then Dean lifted a hand, with great effort, and ruffled his younger brother’s hair. “Thanks, Sammy. I’m okay. I’m okay.”
“No you’re not,” Sam insisted.
John squatted down and cupped his palm to Dean’s forehead. “Shit, son. You’re burning up.”
“I’m okay,” Dean repeated like he was a ghost with a death echo, stuck replaying his last words over and over again.
John sighed, scrubbing his face with his palm. It looked like there was going to have to be a new rule about not hunting when sick… or, better still, about not hiding the fact that you were sick from your father so he wouldn’t know he couldn’t count on you when he needed you. “New rule—”
Sam unburied his face from his brother’s side and looked back at their dad. “Take care of Dean when he can’t take care of himself?”
John closed his mouth. He stared at his boys as they huddled there, being lightly covered by snow at the side of the road. He heard the sirens in the distance, getting closer. He nodded. “Yeah. That’s right. C’mon, son.” He slid his arm around Dean and pulled the kid to his feet. Sam ran ahead to grab a blanket out of the trunk and then get the door. Dean leaned into his father, sniffling and coughing a little, but mostly clinging to him for support. He muttered an apology or three, but John hushed him. “We’ll talk when you’re feeling up to it. Right now we just need to get out of here.”
With one last glance over at the tree, where the three rabbits no longer hung, John took his place behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, shifted into reverse, and stepped on the gas.