Uncommonly Winchester

By Swellison

"School's out for-EVER!" blared from the alarm clock that Dean smacked, hitting the off button without even trying. He threw his covers aside and rose from his bed, a quick glance confirming that Sammy still slept in the next bed. Or at least, he looked like he was sleeping. Dean had only recently discovered that Sammy played sleeping possum with remarkable skill for a seven-year-old.

He always knew Sammy was a dawdler—given the opportunity, Sammy would stretch out a shower for hours. But he hadn't realized that Sammy also just lay in bed—sometimes before Dean's alarm even sounded, just thinking. "Thinking about what?" Dean had asked the second time he'd caught Sammy under the covers, eyes open, gaze distant.

"Just stuff. School, mostly. Going over math problems, trying to guess what the hardest spelling word's gonna be—stuff like that."

"Why?" Dean had asked, baffled. School—like everything else—was a necessary evil, to be gone through, no need to dwell on it ahead of time.

"Why not?" Sammy had asked back, seemingly equally baffled. "I like school. My teacher's very kind, and I'm making friends. Everything's nice and normal—no surprises."

Dean had shaken his head, not understanding his younger brother's anticipating school and looking forward to normal, but willing to concede that he and Sammy didn't think the same, about just about anything.

Dean scooted out the door and to the bathroom, hopped into the shower, brushed his teeth and crept back into their room. He pulled out jeans and a shirt from one of the upper drawers of the single battered highboy they shared, dressing quietly. He paused by the alarm, resetting the radio for twenty minutes later, allowing for some dawdling time for Sammy while the kid took his shower. Then he slipped out the door. He backtracked to Dad's bedroom, pausing by the door to catch the reassuring buzz of his father's snoring, then headed for the kitchen.

Opening the refrigerator, Dean took out the loaf of bread, and jars of peanut butter and strawberry jam. Sam turned his nose up at the more traditional grape jelly—"it's purple" his only explanation, so Dean had adjusted his sandwich ingredients accordingly. At least Dad still believed Dean's shopping lists. If Dean specified a brand or flavor, Dad picked it up at the grocery store. They had both learned the hard way that if Sammy took a dislike to some sort of food, he wasn't going to eat it. Not even Dad's hunter growl could get Sammy to eat something he didn't want to. Dean had secretly marveled at Sammy's sheer guts, defying Dad over food for cryin' out loud, but that was Sammy all over.

Maybe they'd spoiled the kid, just a little. Sammy knew how to get what he wanted: a soft "Dean, please" or he'd just look at him, with those puppy dog eyes, and Dean caved. Dad was made of sterner stuff, of course, but Sammy won more skirmishes than he lost with Dad, something Dean could hardly say the same about, since he just did not disobey Dad. Not now, at least. Not any more, not ever again.

Of course, it'd be nice if Dad acted like he knew that—which he did Dean was pretty sure, but that didn't prevent Dad from grilling him on everything, every time.

"Lock the door—both bolts—and keep the windows locked, too. Shades down."

"Yes, sir."

"Don't answer the phone unless it rings once, hangs up and then rings again. That'll be me."

"Yes, sir."

"Pastor Jim or Caleb might call, too—I told them to use the same signal."

"Yes, sir."

"And above all else, look after Sammy."

Dean no longer answered that with a quick eye roll and "You know I will"—not since Fort Douglas, when he'd almost gotten Sammy killed. "Yes, sir."

The pop of the slices being pushed up from the toaster snapped Dean out of his thoughts. He grabbed a plate from the cupboard, picked up the two pieces of hot toast and set them on the plate. Tossing two more slices into the double-slot toaster, he pushed the button down leaving the toast to cook itself while he turned his attention to the first slices.

He spread the peanut butter on one side, thick coating the way Sammy liked it, and then liberally spread the jam on the other side. He placed the two pieces together, tamped down on them slightly, so the jam wouldn't drip as Sammy ate his sandwich. Dean then reached for the next two slices, popping them out of the toaster and laying them on the plate. He put two additional slices in the toaster and lowered the lever. He made a second sandwich, heavy on the peanut butter, like Dad preferred. Then he extracted the third pair of toasted slices, put bread in the toaster one more time, and quickly made a second peanut butter-heavy sandwich for Dad. He grabbed the toast for his own sandwich, checked the peanut butter level before evenly spreading a thin layer of peanut butter on his toast, followed by a glob of strawberry jam. He cut all the sandwiches diagonally and grabbed the box of plastic sandwich bags. Extracting four transparent bags, he popped the sandwiches in them, carefully folding over and tucking in the flaps to keep the sandwiches fresh until lunch time. He dropped the sandwiches into their three brown bags— labeled Sammy, Dad, and Dean, followed by a banana for each of them. Bananas were the cheapest fruit Dean knew; besides Sammy liked bananas. He'd even been known to slice them up and add them to his PB&J sandwich, which was just wrong to Dean's way of thinking, but, hey, that was Sammy for you.

Dean pondered putting anything else in their lunches. He eyed the upper cupboard, knowing that it harbored a brightly colored bag of cookies—Rainbow Chips Deluxe, Sammy's favorite—tucked away, out of sight and way out of Sammy's reach. There were half a dozen cookies left, which would make for an after school snack for today, plus cover the weekend. Besides, it was barely October and they hadn't been in their current school long enough for Dean to firmly establish the "leave Sammy alone or else" rule among the kid's fellow second graders. Sammy was little for his age, and super-smart, a given teacher's pet and on the surface, an easy target for bullies. Dean knew that the other kids thought a PB&J sandwich and banana lunch wasn't worth stealing; he wasn't going to add a cookie into the mix, to possibly tip the scales.

Sandwiches made and bananas dispensed, Dean glanced at the clock, checking his internal clock with the real one. He padded back to the bedroom, entered without knocking. "Rise and shine, Sammy!" he said, flipping the covers off.

"Dean!" Sammy yelped, jerked upright and grabbed for the covers, wanting to burrow under them.

"C'mon, Sammy. Hit the shower. It's time to get up!"

Before Sammy could say anything, the alarm burst on again. "Back in black—"

Momentarily distracted by one of his favorite songs, Dean let Sammy flop back in bed, burying himself under the retrieved blankets. Then Dean latched onto the covers and pulled them off. "Shower, Sammy. NOW. You've only got fifteen minutes 'til Dad wakes up!"

Dean used his "bottom line" voice, knowing that Sammy would listen. Sure enough, Sammy got out of bed and zipped down the hall. Dean heard the bathroom door closing behind him as he strode back to the kitchen. Lunch taken care of, he needed to get breakfast started.

Fortunately, the box of Lucky Charms was half-full, so Dean quickly laid out two bowls of Lucky Charms and a bowl of Wheaties for dad on the cheap Formica kitchen counter. After starting the coffee brewing, he carried the two bowls of Lucky Charms into the dining room, setting them down on the table. Returning to the kitchen, he grabbed the bowl of Wheaties and the bananas, added them to the dining room table, and twisted two bananas off the bunch. He cut the bananas into slices over the bowl of Wheaties and his Lucky Charms. Sammy didn't like adding fruit to his cereal, he said it "diluted the flavor." Dean grabbed a third banana and placed it unpeeled by Sammy's cereal bowl. He fetched two glasses of milk and set them on the table but didn't start pouring milk over the cereal until he heard Sammy's steps in the hallway. Sammy didn't like soggy cereal, either.

Dean inspected Sammy as the seven year-old took his seat at the table, damp hair and clean face clear evidence of his brother's recent showering. "You've got fifteen minutes before we need to leave for school, so eat fast, kiddo."

Sammy hmphed, and then picked up his spoon and dug into his Lucky Charms. Apparently, 'kiddo' was not the way to address his little brother, this week. Dean retreated to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and walked it carefully back to the dining room. "Dad! Breakfast's ready!"

Sammy sprang towards their front door, Dean walking a few steps behind. Sammy had skipped merrily home at least half the way, Dean's longer stride keeping them close enough to talk. Sammy had bubbled over with talk about Tommy, Joel and Blair—apparently friends he was making. Dean grumbled about homework for the weekend, getting no sympathy from his seven- year-old brother who absolutely adored homework assignments.

Sammy halted at their dinky porch—an off-kilter slab of concrete, its poorly painted whitewash failing to obscure the network of cracks in it. The place looked like a dump: scraggly grass competing with weeds, cramped, old, dingy and zero curb appeal. Dean had overheard Dad and Pastor Jim discussing the next Winchester abode prior to the move. The two men had hashed out the pros and cons of renting a house versus an apartment, going with the house for two reasons: it was defensible, and the absence of an apartment's shared walls gave it much-desired privacy. Sammy waited for Dean to catch up with him and he slipped behind Dean while he opened the door. Dean stepped cautiously through the opened door, feeling Sammy at his back while his eyes scanned the living room, dining room and the kitchen for any signs of unauthorized entry. Ever since Fort Douglas, Dean had developed a wary attitude towards things, creatures, supernaturals lying in wait for them—for Sammy—inside their own house. So, he kept Sammy behind him and gave the house a recon every afternoon when they came home from school.

He eased up slightly, seeing none of his hidden traps—low-tech, but effective—had been triggered or altered. Sammy went over to the scuffed dining room table—the small house had come partially furnished—and grabbed the sheet of paper placed on top of it. Chagrined, Dean snatched the paper from Sammy's hands –how'd he miss that?—but relaxed when he recognized Dad's firm cursive. "Dean, I'll be home later tonight. Make yourselves some dinner and keep an eye on Sammy. Dad" That was what the public note said. Dean walked into the kitchen and opened the door to the freezer. He removed a mostly empty box of popsicles, pulled the tab apart and withdrew another note.

"Dean, Caleb called and he needs help with a hunt. I left early since he's in Colorado. Should still be back by Monday night. Look after Sammy. Dad" Dean read the note before telling Sammy, "Dad got called out of town to help out a fellow salesman with a tough sell. We're on our own for the weekend."

Sammy didn't look thrilled at news that would make older kids very happy. "The whole weekend? When's he comin' back?"

"Monday night, maybe even Tuesday." Dean tried his darnedest to be straight with Sammy, when and where he could. The big lies—"Dad's a salesman"—were unavoidable, but he needed Sammy to trust him, even though a part of him was amazed that Sammy could trust him, after the shtriga incident. But Sammy didn't seem to hold it against him; it almost seemed like Sammy had forgotten the whole thing. Dean wondered if his brother's contact with the shtriga had affected his memory, but he still couldn't bring himself to talk to Dad about the shtriga. Likewise, Dad avoided the subject, but every once in a while Dean caught his father staring at him, eyes somehow different. Dean wasn't sure what was missing—or added—to his father's gaze, but something was.

"Tuesday?" Sammy questioned, loudly. "But that's—that's forever."

"No, it's not, Squirt. It's only four, four and a half days from now."

"But I wanted to play catch with Dad— "

"You can play catch with me, Sammy. The time'll just fly by. Tell you what," Dean plastered a smile on his face, reaching for the upper cupboard. He extracted the brightly packaged cookies from their hidey-hole and set it on the counter, unfolding the sealed package and pulling out the plastic tray. "How about a—" He blinked, taking in with dismay the single deluxe rainbow chip cookie in the last section of the transparent plastic tray. There had been six cookies in the bag this morning, Dean was certain of that. Dad must've grabbed some cookies for the road—they were a long way from Colorado, currently in Illinois.

He didn't begrudge Dad his chosen sugar boost, but it did leave him short five cookies, with an already disappointed Sammy on his hands. It would've helped to have those cookies to dole out over the weekend, keep Sammy happy.

Dean hastily took the cookie out of the tray, handing it to Sammy. "There you go, Tiger. Enjoy."

Sammy's little hand grasped the cookie, but he hesitated. "Aren't you having one?"

"I'm saving it for after dinner." Dean said, trying to shield the now-empty tray from Sammy's eyes.

"But there's noth—" Sammy started to say.

Dean's shoulders slumped a little; he hadn't been able to hide the empty tray from Sammy after all. He glanced at Sammy, working up what to say, when his gaze shifted back to the counter. There was a single deluxe rainbow chip cookie resting in the corner of the last compartment of the cookie tray. "What the— " he muttered, then cut himself off. He glanced at Sammy, then his eyes narrowed as he searched the kitchen: counters, stove, refrigerator, what he could see of the inside of the still-opened cupboard where the cookie bag had been stashed. Nothing out of the ordinary; nothing at all. Except—he glanced at the innocuous cookie, which had somehow appeared in the empty tray.

Just to be sure, he sent a confirming glance towards Sammy, spotting the cookie still in his younger brother's hand. Something left that second cookie in the tray—it didn't just get there by itself. But who—or what? Dean's very good hearing suddenly caught an unexpected sound, coming from behind the toaster, on the countertop to his right. "Sammy," he suggested evenly, "It's almost time for Thundercats. Why don't you go watch it? I'll be with you shortly, gotta start making supper."

"Yay, Thundercats!" Sammy obediently headed for the living room, where the Winchester's single portable TV resided. Dean waited until Sammy cleared the kitchen before turning his attention back to the countertop, focusing on the toaster, or whatever was hiding behind it. He listened, hoping it wasn't a rat—he hated rats—but four-, six- and eight-legged critters weren't unknown in this run-down residence. Dean had helped Dad set a few discreet mouse traps on the day they'd moved in, and all the Winchesters had scrubbed the place down within an inch of its life, but rodents were smarter than most people thought, and if one was scurrying around on the kitchen countertops, he was going to put a stop to that, right now. Although a rodent hardly explained the presence of the additional cookie. He chose not to dwell on that; he needed to take that mouse down, and dispose of it before Sammy saw it. Sammy had enough nightmares without adding a mouse—or worse, a rat—into the mix.

Suddenly, he tensed, positive he'd heard another sound from behind the toaster—but it didn't sound like scurrying. It sounded like—laughter? Dean's right hand shot out towards the toaster, which he jerked aside, pushing it further down the counter, exposing—

He blinked.

Exposing a very small figure in light tan pants, a yellow striped shirt and a green jacket. A small hat sat on the whatever's head, nestled between his large, pointed ears.

"What the—" Dean lowered his tone immediately, not wanting Sammy to come back into the kitchen before he'd dealt with this whatever-it-was.

"Hi! That was a nice gesture, giving him the last cookie, so I wanted to show my appreciation." The tiny thing spoke good English, perfectly understandable and loud enough for Dean to hear clearly, although the tone was a little on the tinny side.

"What're you—how'd you—who are you?" Dean sputtered, surprised that the little thing spoke at all, let alone English.

"I'm Larry. I'm an elf."

"A what?"

"You heard me, I'm an elf. Larry Hollowtreen. Pleased to meet you." The elf beamed, holding out its teeny, tiny hand.

"An elf?" Dean sputtered. "Really? What kinda name is Larry for an elf?"

"It's a perfectly good name. What kind of name d'you think elves should have?" Larry challenged.

"Edward—or Elvis," Dean smirked. Yeah, Elvis would be a great name for an elf.

Larry didn't seem amused. "'E' names are reserved for the Head Elf and his immediate family. Larry is a perfectly fine name for an elf, DEAN."

Dean's eyes narrowed as he contemplated the two-inch tall creature. Elf, fairy—call it what it really was, a supernatural. Despite its harmless appearance—it did bear an uncanny resemblance to the cartoon elf on the cookie bag—this creature was an unwanted visitor. It had somehow gotten past Dean's defenses and into his house. Plus, it knew his name—at least his first name. Dean knew enough about hunting to know that that wasn't a good thing, at all. Names were powerful weapons in the hands of the supernatural.

It was hard to see the elf as a threat, but it was an intruder, at least. That sent Dean's hackles up. "How'd you get in here?"

"Ancient Chinese secret." Dean just glared at the elf, and heard Larry mutter to himself, "Some people have no sense of humor." Louder, the elf said, "I'm part of the quality control team. We do spot checks to ensure consistently yummy cookies, no matter how long they have been stored before being consumed.

"Obviously, with your family of three males, the freshness issue isn't really a concern, is it?" Larry said, alluding to the would-have-been empty plastic cookie tray and its one remaining cookie.

This was getting worse and worse; the elf knew way too much about Dean's family—and it had skirted around Dean's question. "How'd you get in here?" Dean added some menace to his tone.

"Magic, of course. I am an elf."

"But this place is wa-" Dean swallowed the end of his sentence, no need to tell the enemy too much. Perhaps Dad's wards had a minimum size limit, and the elf somehow was too small to be effectively entangled by the wards? Dean couldn't recall seeing any entries about elves in Dad's journal. Frustrated, Dean slammed a hand on the countertop, causing the elf to jump.

"Whoa there, sonny!" Larry squeaked, raising his hands in supplication. "No need for violence. I'm sure we can come to an understanding, here."

"What kind of understanding?"

"We-ell," the elf glanced around the small out-of-date kitchen. "How about an endless supply of deluxe rainbow chip cookies? That way, Sammy'll never have to miss an after-school treat again. You, too, of course—there will always be at least two cookies in the tray."

The damn elf knew Sammy's name, too. This was bad, very bad. Dean appeared to consider the offer. Inside, he was fuming, the thing thought he could bribe Dean to give it access to his house, exposing Sammy to who-knows-what, for some cookies? Really? "Dad's gonna be suspicious, if we never need to buy another bag of cookies." Dean surreptitiously opened the lower cabinet and spied a frying pan in easy reach. He wasn't sure if cast iron qualified as cold iron, but it was certainly heavy enough.

"Okay, then," Larry offered, "you can buy one bag a month, and each bag will have a month's supply of coo—"

BAM! Dean slammed the hefty cast iron frying pan on top of the elf with all his might, then grabbed the lidded stock pot from the lower cabinet with his free hand. He took off the lid and extracted a wooden spoon from the silverware drawer, maintaining his firm hold on the frying pan. Then he lifted the frying pan and scooped the somewhat flattened and bloody elf from the frying pan's bottom into the stock pot. He clamped the lid on the large pot and walked over to the fridge, shoving the sealed pot into the back of the freezer and out of Sammy's sight and reach.

Not a moment too soon, as Sammy bounded into the kitchen. "Dean! What happened? I heard—"

"Sorry, Sammy," Dean scrambled for an acceptable explanation for the loud thump. "I tried to get a spider"—it was the least scary bug Dean could think of—"but I missed. Is Thundercats over yet?"

"Commercials," Sammy turned and went back to the living room, to continue watching his show.

Dean snatched the plastic tray with its magical? cookie and threw it in the garbage. Picking up the frying pan with a grimace, he proceeded to give it a very thorough cleaning, and planned what non-fried food he could make for supper tonight.

Dean approached their cruddy porch, Sammy a step or two behind him. The weekend had been rough—Sammy had been a cranky brat—and Monday had never been his favorite weekday, anyway. The novelty of having sandwiches for supper wore off quickly for Sammy; Dean had spent half the walk home from school figuring out what he could make for dinner tonight that didn't utilize their frying pan or stock pot.

He put the key in the front door and turned it. Sammy uncharacteristically charged from behind him, ducking under Dean's arm to open the door and burst inside. This was way past Sammy's weekend sulking; this behavior was reckless, and unacceptable. Dangerous. Dean pulled back the key, stepped inside and slammed the door shut. He caught up with Sammy and thundered, "Don't you ever do that again!" and yanked his younger brother's arm, pulling Sammy behind himself.

"Stay behind me!"

Dean scanned the empty rooms, checking each for his little traps. None of them had been triggered, but the elf had bypassed all his traps on Friday. He stepped into the kitchen, the site of the elf's appearance, and gave it a thorough once-over, conscious of Sammy silently dogging his footsteps, safely behind him. Nothing. He turned to face his little brother, gentling his tone. "D'ya got any homework?" Homework was hit or miss in the second grade—some days Sammy had homework, and some days he didn't.

Sammy shook his head no.

"Wanna watch cartoons?" Dean suggested. "Or play a game—cribbage, maybe?" Sammy liked cribbage, and Dad approved of it, too, since the game taught strategy and planning, useful things for hunters to know.

Sammy nodded enthusiastically. "I'll get the board!" He scampered off to their room, returning a couple of minutes later. Dean had found a deck of cards and was seated at the dining room table by the time Sammy returned and joined him at the table. Sammy won the cut for first dealer and the game began. Initially, their only conversation was cribbage-speak: "eight" "seven" "fifteen for two" "fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six and a pair is eight." Gradually, Sammy relaxed into the game, and started speaking mile-a-minute Sammy speak, filling Dean in on how his Monday classes went.

At five-thirty, Dean called a halt to cribbage. "I've got to get dinner started, Squirt."

"More sandwiches?" Sammy scowled at the cards as he shuffled them before putting them back in the card case.

"Nah. We're gonna have something special tonight."

"What?"

"That's for me to know and you to find out." Dean couldn't resist teasing Sammy, just a little. They seemed to be back on an even keel, Sammy's disobedience and subsequent scolding behind them. "Now, go watch TV and I'll tell you when dinner's ready."

Dean watched Sammy get up from the table and head for the living room, then he walked into the kitchen. Opening the small pantry, Dean yanked a can of corned beef hash and a can of peas from their emergency supplies. He retrieved the can opener from the drawer and extracted two mismatched small pots from the lower cabinet. Dean was a bit apprehensive at digging into their emergency supplies—Dad won't be happy about that—but he needed a hot meal that he could make in their remaining cookware, since the large frying pan and their stock pot were out of commission.

Soon, Dean had the corned beef hash and the peas cooking on the stove, giving the hash extra cooking time since it was clumped thicker than usual in the smaller pot. He set the table and called, "Sammy! Dinner's ready!" as he carried in the pots of corned beef hash and peas. He spooned out equal portions of the meat and vegetable on their plates, then set the pans on two scuffed tile trivets in the center of the table.

Sammy sat down, eying the meal with skepticism. "What is it?"

"Corned beef hash—you'll like it."

Sammy picked up his fork and prodded the maroon-colored mound, spearing a small white cube with his fork and examining it. "What's this?"

"Potato." Dean said after calmly eating a forkful of the hash.

"Nuh-uh." Sammy challenged.

"Yes, it is." Dean said, before Sammy could spout off what real potatoes looked like. "Taste it."

Dean watched as Sammy dutifully ate the white cube, smirking at his little brother's surprised expression as Sammy discovered that he was eating a potato bit.

"What's so special about this stuff?" Sammy asked after eating a forkful of the hash.

Dean stared at his plate, searching for a reason for hash to be a special dinner. "Well, the hash is pinkish red and the peas are green, so it's like eating Christmas! A coupla months early, of course." He watched as Sammy digested the information, nodded and continued to eat his dinner, alternating forkfuls of hash and peas.

They were almost finished with dinner when Dean heard a key turning the front door lock. He sprang from the table as Dad walked into the dining room. Sammy pushed his chair back and darted forward, throwing his arms around Dad's legs. "Daddy!"

Dad scooped Sammy up into his arms, the kid nestling easily into Dad's black leather jacket.

"I missed you!" Sammy said, throwing his arms around Dad's neck.

Dad ruffled Sammy's curls. "Missed you, too, Squirt." Dad's eyes flicked from the tabletop to Dean. Dean had no trouble interpreting Dad's silent "we'll talk about this later" glare.

"I'll get you a plate." Dean hastily walked into the kitchen, returning with a new plate and silverware. He quickly spooned food onto the plate.

Depositing Sammy back in his chair, Dad seated himself and began to eat his dinner.

"What was Col'rado like? Did you see anything interestin'? Was it cold?" Sammy peppered Dad with questions.

"Whoa, there, Sammy! Can't a man eat in peace, first?" Dad attempted to rein in Sammy's comments. He swallowed, then continued. "Colorado is a lot different than Illinois—heck of a lot colder, this time of year." Dad told them what he'd seen on the road, between bites of hash and peas.

He finished his dinner and set down his fork. "You have any homework, Sammy?"

"No, sir. Not today."

"Good. I want you to go take a bath."

"But I'm clean! I hadda shower this morning!" Sammy protested.

"I know all about your ten-minute school day showers, Sammy. It's getting colder out and you need a good, hot bath before bedtime. Now go." Dad ordered.

For a moment, Dean thought that Sammy was going to backtalk Dad, but his younger brother sighed and said, "Okay, Dad." They watched as Sammy left the dining room, heading for the house's solitary bathroom.

Once he was certain Sammy was out of earshot, Dad turned to him. "What happened while I was gone?" He tapped his plate with his index finger. "Why'd you hit the emergency stockpile for dinner tonight?"

Dean took a deep breath. "It all started Friday after school, sir." He apprised Dad of the elf's appearance, their conversation, and how he'd bashed it with the frying pan. "I washed it really good, but I didn't want to use it, after—afterwards. The stock pot's in the freezer—I hadda store the body someplace. Sammy was gettin' sick and tired of PB&J sandwiches for lunch and dinner, so… I raided the hunting stockpile and made corned beef hash tonight, sir."

Dad rose from his seat, Dean automatically standing as well. "Let's see this elf of yours."

They walked into the kitchen and over to the refrigerator. Dean opened the freezer door on the top part of the fridge, and reached to the back, dragging out the closed stock pot. Dad took the cold pot from Dean's hands and raised the lid, examining the frozen dead elf inside.

"I'll take care of disposing the body. And I'll talk to Bobby and Pastor Jim, see if they're aware of any other elf incidents. They can check the lore, too." Dad's eyes met Dean's, man to man. "You handled this just fine, Dean."

For once, there was nothing missing or added in Dad's steady, approving gaze.