The first time it happened, Dean was nearly 8. He vaguely registered his body being moved, but he didn’t stir because even subconsciously, a sleeping child knows the touch of a parent. He was laid down on something silky, which was strange because the motel beds were never this smooth, but it was fine.
He trusted his dad.
Some time later, it became stiflingly hot in the room, and he opened his eyes. Or at least he thought he did. It was still pitch black.
He reached out, but he couldn’t extend his hands fully because they bumped into another silky smooth surface. He pushed his arms out to the side and found he only had a few feet of space, not enough to stretch out fully. He wriggled down and his feet bumped against another hard surface. He wriggled up and hit his head.
He was in a box.
The panic really set in and he scrabbled at the walls, tearing through the stupid silken material and ripping into the thin layer of foam underneath. His nails hit wood and he scraped against it. Corners of his nails peeled up and probably started to bleed, but he didn’t know for sure because he was in a fucking box in the fucking dark.
The air was too warm and he was breathing too fast to even think straight. His chest hurt from dragging in useless gulps of air and he didn’t even realize he was crying until he scrubbed a hand over his face and found it wet.
“Calm down you big baby,” he told himself roughly. The sound of his voice bumped weakly around the box, muffled in a horrible way that made feel completely alone.
I’m going to die here, he realized weakly. The fight sunk out of him and he went limp. It was harder to breathe, and there was a sharp stinging smell in the box. Dean realized with a flush of shame that he wet himself.
God I haven’t done that since I was Sammy’s age, he thought bitterly.
Fuck. Who was going to protect Sammy?
There was no air in the box, he felt lightheaded even though he was pretty sure he was laying down, but at the thought of his brother, Dean went wild. He let out a loud guttural scream, which probably took up way more oxygen than was smart, but he didn’t care. He needed to get out of here. He needed to make sure his brother was safe.
He pushed hard at the sides of the box. No give. He pushed at the piece over him and with the surge of adrenaline and the reckless abandon he now had, the piece tilted slightly. Dirt came raining down on him, making him splutter. It was impossible to breathe, but also impossible to give up now.
He pushed again.
The cool night air hit him like a gift. He sucked in greedy lungfuls one after another.
“I KNEW you could do it son,” John said, suddenly in front of him. He gripped him under the arms and lifted him up out of the dirt. Dean let himself be flung into the air, but when he was placed back on the ground, his knees buckled and he grabbed his dad by the forearms.
“What..” He trailed off weakly. In the moonlight he saw his fingertips, raw and bleeding profusely.
“Coffin training. A new exercise I whipped up. I figure at some point a monster is going to bury you and your brother alive and you boys need to know how to deal with that. What better way to train than in the safety of my presence?”
Dean looked up at his dad, at the mad gleam in his eyes, and felt nothing but a numb exhaustion. He let go of John’s arms and took his weight on his own unsteady feet. Behind John, he could see an open coffin, dirt scattered inside, and long gouges in the foamy interior, some painted in blood.
The most pathetic thing was that the coffin had clearly only been buried about one foot. If this continues, it would get worse.
So much worse.
“Dean,” John said sternly, a tinge of horror in his voice. “Did you piss yourself?”
Dean looked down, a fresh wave of shame washing over him. He wanted to talk, to make some excuse, but his words stuck in his throat.
John shook his head and took a step away from Dean as if disgusted.
“You try to raise a man and get stuck with an overgrown freeloading child. You’re washing those by hand when we get back, I ain’t touching your pissy laundry,” John said, pointing to Dean’s filthy jeans.
John shut the coffin and kicked dirt back over it, then placed some broken branches over the torn up earth. He made no comment, just started walking, presumably back to the motel. All the pride he had for Dean moments ago was replaced with a slightly annoyed indifference.
Dean jogged to keep up, the evidence of his terror cooling uncomfortably on his jeans. By the time they reached the motel, he was a shivering mess. His fingertips hurt, his lungs hurt, and most of all, his pride hurt.
When the door closed behind them he noted with relief that Sammy was sleeping. Dean didn’t say a word to his dad, just walked straight into the dingy bathroom and stepped into the shower fully clothed.
The water started off cold and never warmed. It was a long time before Dean felt safe enough to shuck off his clothes and scrub his body.
It was an even longer time before he felt safe enough to fall asleep.
At least one part of the training had been effective, because from that moment on Dean bolted awake at the slightest hint of movement near him.