Dean Winchester stood on his first very own front porch and felt like he overlooked the five thousand acres of his very own land. Well, to be completely honest, it wasn’t entirely his. Or anything of it, really. He had only come here because he wanted to support his younger brother Sam, who had bought this place when their father had once again played them against each other about who was gonna be more qualified to take over the family business on their home farm, Winchester’s Grange.
Things had gone haywire between John and his younger son for a while, Dean thought, while he continued to overlook the run down farm he lived on now. He had always thought that he was connected to the land and that’s why he immediately felt so at home here as if it were his very own. He had never left their home farm for a longer periods of time and he felt like he would be unhappy anywhere else. It was different for his brother though, Sam had studied agricultural economics and sciences and their father John hadn‘t liked that he went away for so long, leaving them to do whatever they liked with their home farm. Sam wasn’t overly attached to the place even though technically he’d be the better one equipped to take charge of the ranch, but he had his own ideas about how to run it, which his father didn’t much care for and didn’t want to realize on his property.
Winchester’s Grange had always been one of the biggest cattle farms in the whole district and Dean knew the business from his earliest childhood on. He’d had worked their farm forever, even when he should have better focused on school. While Sam buried his nose in his books and studied which crops were best for the Texan soil, or which techniques were the best when breaking in colts, Dean had been out there, doing the practical approach and soon working better than his father’s leading farm hand. He had barely finished school because of it, but in the end, he managed because his mom and their leading hand, Bobby Singer, would have whacked his ass if he hadn’t. But he had always preferred to work as soon as school was over and most of the time he was getting up earlier than he had to, to pull his weight around the place.
He had learned more from Bobby more than his father had taught him; About how to fix and maintain fences, that the troughs had to be cleaned regularly, how to fix windmills and pipes, how to drench and shear, and last but not least how to train horses.
John had thought that Bobby’s way of starting a horse instead of scaring it into obedience was horse whispering mumbo jumbo, but Dean and the eldest neighbor child, Jessica Devereaux, hadn’t thought so. They had never again broken in a horse after Bobby showed them his different approach.
He would climb into the paddock and let the horse come to him, walking away and leaving the animal space until it showed curiosity and let itself be petted. Afterwards, he would start to lead it around on a bridle, making the animal run rounds and stop on command until he finally put a saddle on it. Then he waited until the horse was calm enough to mount and when it was, he took his time to teach it the signals for the different paces.
It took a few days longer to get the horse ready for work as compared to break them conventionally, but the ones he had started this way had not just been working animals, but grew very attached and friendly to their handler. Dean and Jess had adopted Bobby’s approach immediately, breaking out in a friendly rivalry about who would one day be the best horse trainer in the country while their younger siblings, Charlie and Sam, just stood by and shook their heads about the older ones, secretly wishing to be old enough to train horses themselves.
The Winchesters had always been good friends with the Devereaux girls and they had been over there countless times, or purposely riding the boundary fence to meet up and play.
These days, old Frank with his two daughters, Jessica and Charlie lived on Devereaux farm, alongside his housekeeper Ellen with her daughter Jo and additionally a couple of farmhands. Back when they were children, Charlie’s mom had lived with them as well, but she and Frank had divorced shortly after her 8th birthday.
Despite from what his friendly rivalry with Jessica would suggest, he really liked Charlie better; she had been his best friend ever since she could walk. When her mother took Charlie with her and moved away to the nearest city, not only the girl was devastated but Dean as well. She had begged her mother to be able to stay on the farm, but for a long while, there had only been weekend visits. After about a year, her mother had seen reason, seeing how unhappy Charlie was to be separated from her sister and her best friend and had let the child stay here for good.
Later they found out why she gave in so relatively easy, namely because Charlie’s mother had had cancer and didn’t want her little daughter to see her suffer, but instead enjoy her time with her father and sister. She had died shortly after Dean’s 14th birthday, when he and Jess had decided that their plans to someday run a stud were what they wanted to do with their life.
They had just had Sam and Charlie oversee their highly official secret handshake about their business plans (both teenagers had spit in their palms and shook on it) when Frank had come over with the bad news.
Charlie completely fell apart then, not wanting to say or do anything for nearly a month because she now knew that her mother had sent her away to enjoy her time here when she would have needed her the most. She was only 12 but she felt strangely responsible for what had happened and now she decided to leave the farm again. She begged her father to send her off to boarding school, so that she might do something good with her life and make her mother proud.
Jess didn’t want her sister to go alone and decided to go with her little sister wherever she went. Dean had been downcast that Charlie would leave again, but things got worse when they got back home and he heard Sam talk to his father about going to boarding school too.
His father thought it was a great idea and soon all four of them were enrolled in a fancy school. Dean hadn’t even been asked if he wanted to go and when he finally went, grouching and unwilling, he hated every second of it. He missed home so much that he felt like he’d carry a constant ache around with him. On the first parents‘ weekend, his father told him to suck it up and be a man, but his mom had seen that Dean was truly unhappy and single-handedly pulled him out of that school again.
Afterwards, he was enrolled at the nearest high school and more than happy to be back home, even though he was gonna be very lonely for a time. Sam, Jess and Charlie stayed at boarding school the entire rest of the year before each of them decided that they wanted to come back home as well; it didn‘t feel right to any of them to completely break with home and particularly Charlie feared she‘d lose herself if she couldn‘t think of the farm as her home anymore. She said that she’d find other ways to make her mother proud and studied like mad, even at her new/old school. Sam, who was the only one who’d rather continue boarding school, now started a friendly rivalry between him and Charlie. Because if the elder siblings rivaled themselves with horse training, the younger ones weren’t any better for their thirst for education.
Frank Devereaux and John Winchester already planned their family union whenever they saw Dean and Jess work with the horses while Sam and Charlie studied under the nearest tree. However, they decided the younger sibling should be paired with the older one so that they didn’t need to fight themselves over who would inherit which property.
It looked as if they were gonna succeed with Sam and Jessica, because goofy, lanky Sam always turned even more so when Jess was present and he always blushed fiercely when he did something embarrassing around her. Dean thought that his brother had an almost pathetic crush on the older girl and often teased him for it. But obviously not in front of Jess herself, he was too good a brother for that.
When it came to a match between Dean and Charlie though, they soon figured out that there were objectives in the way. They both found out that they weren’t interested in the opposite gender when they had kissed once and it hadn’t done anything for either of them.
Nobody really knew about it at first, neither Dean nor Charlie had made a big deal of their homosexuality, they thought, if they should ever find the right person, it was still soon enough to tell.
Charlie had told her father after she had developed her first crush, and the only thing he had answered: “As you please, my doll. As long as you’re not a Republican.”
Dean had almost envied Charlie because he feared that his father would react a lot differently when he told him the news and he should be right in the end. First of all, John didn’t think Dean was serious when he came out to him and his mother. He laughed at him, then when Dean didn’t give up his resolve, he told him that he couldn’t even know that after trying just once and it was just a phase.
He had stood by this opinion for a while, and Dean had felt misunderstood and rightfully angry at his father as he worked with even more élan on his new project that didn’t involve anything on the farm for once.
After Charlie had left the neighbor‘s farm for a while, Mary had revealed something very shocking to him. She told him that she came from a long line of hunters of the supernatural and she needed Dean’s help for a haunted house a couple of towns over.
Hunters of the supernatural were tolerated in society at best. They were necessary, because despite what most people thought, monsters, ghosts and the odd demon still roamed the earth. Most people knew that there were hunters around, but they thought they were whack jobs, and only the people who had needed hunters once, spoke more highly of them.
When Dean was really young he had been at a local rodeo show and a psychic who worked out of a tent had told him all about hunters. But until almost a year ago, he had never known that his own mother was one of them.
It didn’t matter much to him when she took him out to an abandoned house a few hundred miles south of their neck of the woods.
Mary told him on the way over there that it was a family business into which you were born and which you could never leave behind you.
“It runs in your blood, son. And I think with all the others gone now, you could use something to clear your head. I know it clears mine to hunt, even though I hated it growing up.”
Dean only shrugged and figured if his mom thought he should give this a shot, he would.
The house was old and damp. The wallpaper peeled itself off the walls and there were last years leaves strewn all over the floor, which must have gotten in during fall due to all the windows of the house being broken.
Dean and his mom searched the house while Mary kept a look out for attacking spirits and for her son as well. She had read in the papers that the last owner who wanted to fix the house and property back up died a violent death here. Then she had done research into the historical background of the property for which she had spent hours at the local library, pouring over old microfiche to check the obituaries while her husband thought she was baking with the wives of the farmers association.
On the property, they looked for unmarked graves because Mary didn’t have a record of the spirit candidates’ burial. When she shook her head about graves in the immediate priority, they searched the attic and basement where finally they found what they were looking for.
Dean shoveled up the dirt, trusting his mother that they were gonna find a grave there while she kept watch for angry ghosts with a shotgun in her hand. She had shown him that the shells didn’t contain buckshot grain, but were full of salt.
“Salt repels spirits. So does iron,” she had told him on the way here and then had laughed about his first time shooting rabbits, when he hadn’t noticed that she had given him her salt gun to practice by accident.
Dean wondered very much about his life as he dug up the grave, his gentle mother who had pretended to be completely normal for the longest time by his side, ready to repel ghosts with a rifle.
He stopped wondering what he was doing when he caught sight of his first spirit and his mom firing at it while Dean lit up a matchbook and set the bones he had just dug up on fire. In his excitement, and if he was being honest, quite a bit of fear, he barely remembered to pour more salt over them like Mary had told him.
“Wow… that was…” he beamed at his mom when the fire was crackling nicely and nothing of the spirit remained.
“I know,” she smiled back, a little ruefully for some reason but still feeling the adrenaline and satisfaction of the hunt.
“This is awesome,” Dean remarked while he watched the flames and his mom came closer.
“It isn’t always that easy though,” Mary lectured him, hugging him close. “Sometimes these things get messy and you are in great danger. But this job was simple.”
“Why did you never tell me about this, mom?”
“Because I want you safe. I don’t go on big hunts myself anymore. But sometimes, I just have this itching under my skin. And it feels good to help people like this now and again.”
“Does anyone know? Someone on the farmer’s association? Sammy? Dad?”
“Nobody knows, and it should stay that way. You know how hunters are treated, don’t you? I think your dad would freak out, more so because I took you with me.”
“Mom, I wanna keep doing this,” Dean announced as he watched the flames. “What you said about that itch… You were right. I feel it too.”
“It’s a bloodline, baby. You may be the finest horse trailer this side of Dallas, but you’re also a hunter. You were born into this, just like I was.”
“What about Sammy?”
“He would be too, if he’d once get a taste of it. Listen, baby: The only reason I showed you this is because I think it would do you good. You looked so sad ever since you were at boarding school and now that they‘re all still there and you‘re not. But I need you to understand something. We‘re doing this by my rules. I hated this life for the longest time because my father forced me into it. I am not going to do that to you. But you see, if you‘re in there is no getting out. No one ever really stops being a hunter. That a thing I needed years to learn.”
“I understand,” Dean had said with all the wisdom of his 14 years as he and his mother left the run down house and packed the shovel and the shotgun into the back of the truck.
“Let’s get home,” Mary nodded as she got into the shotgun seat. Technically, Dean was still too young to drive a car outside of their own property, but police controls were very rare around here.
He got behind the wheel and his mom smiled at him fondly.
“We got some work to do.”