Let Us Give Thanks

By: Ridley James

Beta: Tidia has donned her chef's apron so all mistakes are mine.


"If you can't be content with what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped."- Anonymous

"Stay in the circle, no matter what happens." Eight year old Dean Winchester looked down at the sparkling crystals surrounding him and his little brother, then back to Caleb Reaves. The sixteen year old was holding a beat up can in one hand, a shot gun in the other. "Don't either of you think of moving until I come back to get you, or the sun comes up. Got it, Deuce?"

"Uncle Bobby said for you to stay with us." Dean didn't want to be left, especially not in a haunted house in the middle of the night. Their lantern cast dancing shadows in the dark room, making the sheet-covered furniture glow as if monstrous creatures were waiting for the perfect moment to pounce from their hiding spots. The smell didn't help, like the damp dirt in Pastor Jim's root cellar beneath the house mixed with a foul odor Dean could only relate to the way Atticus Finch smelled after a good roll in rotting fish he'd find on the banks of the pond in the summer.

"Well, Bobby is an ass." Caleb looked over his shoulder at the rickety staircase that the older hunter had taken, then back to the boys. Dean didn't miss the fact the teen lowered his voice, or the uncertainty in his gold eyes, a look Dean had witnessed on many occasion, usually just before Caleb did something really stupid that got him in trouble with the adults.

"Ass is a bad word," Sam pointed out before Dean could remind Caleb that Bobby wasn't one to give a time out or a good talking to as punishment like Mac or Pastor Jim.

Caleb reached over and put his hand on the four year old's head, ruffling his hair. "Not when you're talking mules, Runt."

"Uncle Bobby isn't a mule," Sam huffed, pulling away from Caleb. "He's a magical troll."

"A troll yes, magical-only in Prince Samuel's kingdom," Caleb snorted.

A loud crash from the second story rattled the walls of the ancient house reminding Dean of the fake skeletons people hung in their trees at Halloween, the ones that danced and clacked about with the wind. He was pretty sure normal houses didn't make such sounds. His little brother must have agreed. Sam squeezed Dean's hand tighter, his bravado disappearing as he buried into Dean's side with a soft whimper.

"Damien." Dean looked up as dirt and debris rained down around them, Bobby's loud curse echoing from above.

"It's okay." Caleb gripped the shot gun. "Everything will be fine."

Dean wanted to believe Caleb, but his friend's shaky smile wasn't very convincing. The older boy knelt in front of him, reaching over the line between them to grip one of Dean's shoulders. "Look, Kiddo the sooner I help Bobby take care of this, the sooner we'll be at the farm. You, me and Sammy can help Pastor Jim get ready for Thanksgiving, just like we planned."

Dean forced himself to nod, recalling his and the teen's scheming. "We'll have first dibs on the turkey legs."

"You know it." Caleb stood, again, placing the can inside of the circle. "This will keep you safe, I promise. Nothing's going to happen to you on my watch."

"I'm not scared," Dean lied, not wanting the older boy to think he was being a baby.

"I am," Sam confessed without hesitation.

"That's okay, Runt." This time Caleb ran a hand over Sam's hair, giving him a wink. "Your big brother is on watch. Green dragons are known for their bravery. Remember?"

Sam nodded, latching onto the threads of his favorite fairy tale. "Athewm's a guardian dragon."

"You bet he is." Caleb shared another look with Dean before starting for the stairs.

Dean watched the older boy leave, blinking away the hot prickling behind his eyes. He knew Caleb didn't mention Pastor Jim's story for only Sam's benefit. He tried to summon some of Athewm's courage.

"I'm cold, Dean."

"I know, Sammy." His little brother's misery overrode Dean's fear. He sat down on the old rug, careful not to disrupt the circle around them, pulling Sam onto his lap to keep them both warmer. The November night was freezing, which was how they had ended up in the house Rufus asked Bobby to check out on the way to Pastor Jim's. The mechanic's latest junker didn't have a working heater, and Caleb argued it had to be warmer inside the old house than outside in the car, considering the light snow that had begun to fall. Dean hadn't wanted to wait in the car either, but now it seemed the better choice.

"Will Pastor Jim have hot chocolate waiting when we get there?" Sam snuggled closer.

Dean forced a grin, wrapping his arms around his little brother, hoping to share their body heat. "What do you think?"

"I think he'll have hot chocolate with marshmallows and a big fire in the fireplace."

"That sounds like Pastor Jim." Dean was too worried about making it to the farm to think about what might be waiting for them once they were there. They were supposed to have come to the farm with Mac in his nice warm town car, but the doctor had been called away at the last minute to help the FBI on a case, which left Bobby who was making his way from a hunt in Jersey. Caleb had offered to drive the three of them in the old jeep Bobby and Dean's dad had given him last year, but Mac quickly axed that idea, delivering a long speech about teenage drivers that Dean didn't really understand, since his dad let Caleb drive all the time.

"I hope he has cookies."

Dean shook his head at his brother's train of thought. Once Sam got an idea in his head, nothing distracted him. "If we're lucky he might even have some apple pie."

The four year old looked up at him, dark eyes hopeful. "I bet if we told him it was on your list he would make some."

Dean stifled a groan. His little brother had been completely gung ho about the ' Thankful List' Dean had been forced to create by Miss Conley, his second grade teacher from P.S. 87, the school he was currently attending while staying in New York with Mac and Caleb.

"Can we not talk about school, Sammy? I'm on vacation." As far as Dean was concerned, Saturday and Sunday were the best things about school.

"Mac says there is no vacation from learning."

""Don't remind me." Dean rolled his eyes at Sam's parroting the good doctor's words of wisdom. Mac had encouraged Dean to complete the assignment over the break even though Miss Conley had accepted the paper yesterday as it was, with only nine out of ten of the items she requested.

"Was apple pie number eight or nine?" Sam asked.

Dean was compelled to play along by another crash and more muffled cursing from above. "Nine."

The list was supposed to be ten things for which Dean was most thankful in honor of the upcoming holiday. It wasn't the simple assignment Miss Conley painted it to be, at least not for Dean who had once again been forced to be the new kid at school after his father left him and Sam at Mac's the day before Halloween. They hadn't heard from him but a few times since.

"Baseball was eight," Sam shivered, burrowing closer to his brother. "You love baseball."

"Right." Dean pulled Sam's hat down over his ears, tucking his scarf tighter around him. The room seemed to be getting colder. "The first few were easy."

"I was number one!" Sam crowed, holding up one gloved finger with pride.

Dean smiled. "Like I said, easy."

"Daddy was number two." Sam popped up another finger.

Dean was beginning to rethink that choice, the ache in his chest a constant reminder that he hadn't talked to their dad in weeks. November was never good, but Dean hoped things might be different this time.

"Caleb was number three," Sam continued.

Dean felt his cheeks warm with embarrassment. "Only because the idiot was helping me."

"He didn't start helping until number five," Sam shook his head. "You already put Caleb on the list. C.A.L.E.B. I can read, you know."

Dean sighed. Sometimes Sam was too smart for his own good. "Yeah, you're practically a genius."

"Mac says I'm very bright for my age."

"Mac also says you should be in bed by seven thirty to keep your giant sponge brain well-rested." Dean knew it was past midnight. He and his little brother were now in a freezing, falling down haunted house on Thanksgiving Day. If only Miss Conley could see him now. So much for being thankful. Irony was not wasted on Dean, even if he was only eight. After all, Caleb said Dean was really smart, too.

"Pastor Jim and the farm was number four." Sam gave a wide yawn. He rested his head against Dean's chest and Dean knew despite the setting and the chocolate donuts Bobby had let them buy at the last gas station, his little brother was about out for the count. "I really love Pastor Jim."

"Don't forget Atticus Finch." Dean would have listed Pastor Jim, his home and dog all three separately, but Mac had frowned at that idea insisting the pastor and his farm stay together taking up only one place. The doctor let Atticus keep his solo spot at five, but insisted Dean should clump he and Bobby together at number six under the heading 'my uncles'.

"Don't worry, Dean I'd never forget Atticus," Sam vowed sleepily. "I think I'll ask Santa for a puppy this year."

"Do you remember what I picked for number seven?" Dean asked, hoping to derail his little brother's line of thinking. There would be no dog for Sam on Christmas.

"That's easy." Sam yawned again. "The Impala."

"She's the best car around." Dean closed his own eyes for a moment, imagining the sleek black Chevy, the feel of leather and smell of gasoline that represented home. If Santa were real and brought boys and girls what they really wanted, Dean would ask for their Dad to be like his old self again.

"I don't remember number ten," Sam mumbled. Dean felt his brother relax against him, his breathing evening out in sleep. Dean held tighter to Sam, keeping his own eyes closed, thinking about how there had been no number ten. Dean had wanted to put June, July or August for obvious reasons, but Caleb said that was a lame move, especially if Dean wanted a decent grade. Dean refused to put girls as the teen suggested, so they had agreed to leave it blank. After all, nine out of ten was above average.

Dean believed that right up until the moment he watched his fellow classmates pull much longer lists from their planners. Normal kids from Mac's neighborhood didn't have a hard time pointing out things they were thankful for. Dean wasn't quick enough in covering his reaction. Hiding his work beneath his folded arms was a bust. Miss Conley made a big deal of squatting next to Dean's desk, sliding the paper free and reading over it. She patted his back, pointing out that she'd found quality to be much more important than quantity in this assignment. If Dean could pick up on irony, he most definitely understood sympathy. Dean would undoubtedly be getting an A, which would make Mac happy, but left a hollow ache in the pit of the eight year old's stomach.

Another shattering from above had him jerking upright, Sam startling awake. He heard Bobby shout Caleb's name and then a shotgun blast. Sam turned in his lap, burying his face in Dean's chest. "It's okay, Sammy. It's okay." Dean really hoped it would be okay.

"I want Daddy." Sam started to cry. "I want to go home."

Dean wanted his Dad too, but he'd settle for Caleb or Bobby. The room got colder; Dean could see his breath now, each exhale making puffy white clouds. The lantern flickered and went out. That's when Dean saw her.

The woman was wearing a long blue dress, her blond hair piled on her head in a bun. She made Dean think of The Walton's re-runs that Pastor Jim liked to watch with them on Saturday nights. He knew she was a ghost. He'd never seen one up close, but Caleb had told him about them, the way they made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, and how you felt like every bit of warmth was being sucked out of your body. Damien called them the black holes of the supernatural and Dean understood why as the woman floated closer and he found it hard to take in a breath.

He kept his hand on the back of Sam's head, shielding his brother by keeping Sam's face pressed against his jacket. Dean stayed still and completely focused on the woman, his desire to protect Sam keeping him from showing his fear. She gestured to him, smiling sweetly up until the point the toe of her lace-up black boots touched the rim of the protection circle surrounding them.

In an instant the spirit's form shifted, morphing from Walton's Mountain resident to something off one of the horror movies Caleb would let him watch when no grownups were around. Dean swallowed a scream as the woman's dress was replaced by torn, dirty rags, her hair falling away so that now only matted clumps covered patches of her yellow skull. Her kind blue eyes disappeared, leaving black empty sockets. Gray withered skin hung off her face like hardened candle wax. She reached for Dean with spindly bone arms and claw like hands, screaming her wrath when an invisible shield kept her awful fingers away from the boy.

"Pick on someone your own size, grandma."Dean watched Caleb clear the last three stairs with a long jump, landing only a few feet behind the ghost. The teen moved confidently towards them wielding what looked like the poker from Pastor Jim's fireplace.

"Damien." Dean's voice trembled. Sam struggled to turn and look for Caleb, but Dean held him tighter to his chest.

"Stay where you are. She can't hurt you or Sammy." Caleb held up a hand towards him. "I promise I won't let that happen. I just need to distract the lady of the house for a minute longer so Bobby can find the right mirror."

"Mirror?" Dean croaked, trying not to look again to the rotting corpse in front of him.

"Rufus forgot to mention he didn't know exactly which cursed mirror was allowing the Bride of Crypt Keeper to roam about in this plane. Somebody was very vain in their living years."

Dean didn't' understand, and he didn't care. He just wanted the thing the gone. She seemed to pick up on his fear, roaring again, reaching for Dean once more only to be thwarted by the circle. Dean buried his own face against Sam's hair, unable to stop calling out for his father, despite knowing that his Dad was nowhere close to help them.

"I said leave them alone, bitch!"

Dean looked up at a crashing sound, watching as Caleb used the poker to smash a dust covered vase with dried flowers. The woman screamed in protest as the teen trashed more of her house. Dean watched in horror as the thing turned from him and Sam and moved on Caleb. The older boy wielded the poker like a bat, swinging through the woman like she was standing on home plate. To Dean's amazement she disappeared with a wounded howl.

"Reaves knocks it out of the park," Caleb crowed, doing a silly little dance for Dean's benefit. Dean felt a laugh bubble past his terror, but his relief was short lived as the ghost reappeared behind Caleb this time, looking even uglier and much angrier.

"Damien, move!"

Caleb reacted instantly, dropping to the floor as the spirit grabbed for him. He scrambled to his feet holding the poker in front of him. "That the best you got? I've seen puny poltergeists move much faster."

The spirit was done playing. She roared at Caleb, rushing towards him once more. Caleb lifted his arm lashing out with the crowbar, she flicked out of sight, but was back again in an instant, attacking from another angle like an angry bee.

"Bobby!" Caleb yelled, continuing to swat at the ghost but gaining no real ground that Dean could see. "Hurry it up!"

Dean kept his arms around his brother and his eyes on the fight, realizing there was no way Caleb could hold off the spirit for much longer. He looked at the circle and then to the can Caleb had left them. Sam would be safe inside the circle. Dean could just...

"No!" Caleb's shout had Dean's gaze snapping up, fearing the worst. The teen was still fighting, and it took a moment for Dean to realize the warning had come from inside his head, which meant the older boy knew exactly what Dean was thinking. Dean glared at Caleb, continuing to think of the best way to pry Sam off of him and convince his little brother to stay put when Bobby's loud voice called from above.

"Stand clear, Junior!"

Dean didn't have a chance to comprehend what the order meant before Caleb had abandoned the fight with the ghost and was running towards them. He dove over the protection circle to throw himself practically on top of Sam and Dean.

"Stay down."

There was an explosion of light, more debris and dirt pelted them like mortar from a grenade and then everything grew incredibly quiet.

Bobby's booming voice broke the silence. "Everybody alright?"

Dean felt Caleb's hold loosen. He shifted, sitting back on his heels so Dean and Sam could move.

"You guys okay?" Caleb's question was much quieter, but just as anxious as the older hunter's.

Dean blinked up at him, Sam still frozen against his chest.

"Hey, Deuce, talk to me." Caleb brought one had to rest along Dean's face, the other he placed on Sam's back as he stared at Dean with a worried frown.

"Junior?" Another shout and Caleb gave a frustrated huff.

"Damn it, Bobby. Everybody's breathing!" He called out, keeping his hold on the younger boys.

"I know what ten should have been," Dean said, trying to control the tremble in his voice. His soft words had Caleb refocusing on him, the teen's face growing more concerned as his hand moved to Dean's arm, rubbing up and down in a manner to ward off the shivers Dean couldn't hide.

"What are you talking about, Deuce?"

"The list," Dean replied, hoping to slow his heart which was still pounding inside his chest. "I know what I should have put for number ten on my thankful list."

Caleb's hand stilled, he lifted a brow.

"Rock salt," Dean said, a small tentative smile tugging at his mouth. "I am really, really thankful for rock salt."

"Me too, Kiddo," Caleb breathed, pressing his forehead against Dean's for a brief moment before letting the eight year old go with a relieved grin. "Rock salt kicks ass."

"Ass is a bad word." Dean felt Sam stir against him, and when he looked down, his little brother was glaring at Caleb, only a trace of leftover tears on his lashes.

"I could have put silver bullets." Dean looked from his brother to Caleb. "I bet no kid from the Upper West Side would have had that one."

"Iron." Caleb pointed to the poker he'd abandoned.

"Holy water." Dean nodded, his heart rate finally back to normal. "Not to mention matches, gasoline, really big knives and guns."

"Don't forget magical trolls and dragons," Sam piped up, determined not to be left out. "I love the dragons."

Dean looked at Caleb, both of them started laughing. Dean felt not only much warmer, but all of a sudden very, very thankful. "Don't worry, Sammy. I'd never forget the dragons."

The End