: Indiana For NowAuthor
: Pre-series, wee!chesters circa 1988-1989. Thanks to my betas!Summary
: For a while, John tries to create a quiet, normal life for Sam and Dean
There's a rusty old swing set in the sunbaked crabgrass, its once bright colors faded with age, that creaks and squeaks - more vehemently so when Sammy pumps his little legs, forcing the swing to go higher and higher.
Of course, Dean - infused with the bravado of a teenager already at age nine - takes this as a challenge and has to climb on the swing next to his chubby little brother to outdo him.
They sail into the sky, seeking to scrape the heavens, laughing and breathless as they push themselves and ancient metal to their limits.
John lays his tools aside and wipes his grease darkened hands on a rag as he watches his sons play, letting a brief smile escape until the sadness that Mary's not here to see them interferes and dulls this small joy.
Indiana's good for them, he thinks. It's not home, but for now it's good.
Amelia sets only one rule when John shows up on her doorstep, in a hushed voice so Sam and Dean can't overhear in the next room: no talking about hunting, especially in front of the boys.
She has pictures of her late husband in the tiny whitewashed cottage beside the motel where she sits in the parlor and crochets with wrinkled hands touched with arthritis while waiting for the errant customer, lost and tired, to seek a room for the night.
It took John a while to realize none of the pictures of Arthur were from after he started hunting.
It's not charity, their arrangement, as she's quick to point out - sensitive to John's ex-military male pride. She expects him to work hard fixing up the motel in exchange for room and board for him and the kids. It hasn't been full since the big new Holiday Inn went up just down the interstate and the summer travelers have thinned out, so there's plenty of room for them to stay there so Sammy can go to kindergarten.
He's been talking about it all summer, going to school like his big brother Dean - who, despite his decent grades, really couldn't care less about school. He'd rather be with his dad, but he goes obediently, bearing the onus of starting at new school after new school as they traipse across the country.
Dean never complained, but Sam? John just can't do that to him. The boy needs some sort of stability and kindergarten is important for a kid. They'd stayed put long enough for Dean to go, but that was more because John was too much of a mess trying to manage baby Sammy without his wife and still too new to the world of the supernatural to go off on actual hunts.
The kid's whip-smart, but different from Dean who was street smart as early as age six. He loves books and devours the ratty stack of Little Golden Books Amelia's kept in the motel lobby for the last decade since some vacationing family left them behind. He can't read everything in them, but he furrows his brow as if trying extra hard will make him learn the words through sheer force of will.
Before the school year even begins Dean's got a posse of neighborhood kids. Whether they stay out of mischief or Dean's just too smart to get caught John isn't sure, but he sees confidence - the mark of a natural leader - in his son and lets them be as long as they don't get too rowdy and disturb the guests.
Amelia brings them lemonade when the sun beats down hot on their little adventures and they splay themselves across the front steps of her porch in the shade of the gnarled elm tree until the pitcher is empty save the clink of the last few ice cubes. It's hard to say who gazes at Dean with more adoring eyes in these rare moments of inactivity: Consuela the maid's granddaughter or Sam who clearly hero worships his macho big brother. They both would follow him anywhere, which worries Amelia, but John knows Dean would do anything to keep Sam safe. He trusted his son to save his baby from a burning building; he's not about to stop trusting him now.
When school starts they fall into a routine that reeks of normalcy - and family - so much that John misses Mary more than ever. John pretends not to watch out the motel room window as Dean walks Sammy across the street to where the school bus picks them up. He tackles the big jobs while they're in class: rewiring the old fusebox with circuit breakers, replacing chipped porcelain toilets with new ones the water company gave Amelia a good rebate on and ripping out carpet infused with a decade plus of dust mites, dirt and cigarette ashes.
She scowls at the cost of the dumpster he talks her into renting, but no way he's hauling that crap to the dump in his baby. The Impala deserves better.
Word got out about a new mechanic in town after he fell into conversation with a fellow Impala owner at the auto parts store. Business kept coming in after he rebuilt the guy's carburetor for cheap, so his afternoons are spent under the hood of some classic car, fixing it up for spare cash on the side. Amelia doesn't mind as long as he works on them behind the motel where prospective customers can't see from the street and John likes not having to rely on her for money. When Sammy gets home he settles himself down on the back porch with a book and a soda from the vending machine and when Dean gets home he sets himself up with a soda as well, but settles himself next to the toolbox awaiting his chance to hand his father a socket wrench.
He's tall enough to reach the pedals now - just barely - and John's been thinking of taking him out to that deserted farm down Route 41 and teaching him how to drive. He shakes his head and gives his son a dismissive wave when Dean asks why he's looking at him funny; any other father couldn't even imagine letting a nine-year-old drive a car by themselves, but considering what's out there John figures he'd feel better knowing Dean could grab his little brother and get the hell away if something really bad comes after them.
Dinners are mostly proper sit down affairs at Amelia's kitchen table, but sometimes John splurges on a pizza and he and the boys eat messy for a change in front of the TV in their motel room, making a huge pile of crumpled greasy napkins. Dean and Sam have belching contests and throw crusts at each other until John barks at them then wrestles with them on the floor to make up for his outburst. The boys go to bed early on those nights, always worn out from their roughhousing and John watches them from the armchair in the dark with a beer in his hand. He always drinks too much on those nights. It's as if the happier he is with the boys the more the void Mary left behind aches.
Report cards come in January and they drive to the next town's big fancy ice cream parlor to celebrate. Sam got top marks across the board - the teachers can't say enough about what a joy it is to teach such an agile-minded and enthusiastic student. Staying put has done wonders for Dean's report card as well. He aces all his subjects save Math - because his teacher is mean and cranky he says - and History, because memorizing boring stuff old people did holds no interest for him. Despite that he manages Bs in both and has no problem ordering the biggest sundae on the menu as his reward. Between ravenous bites of the behemoth sundae John's appalled at the size of Dean proudly tells every waitress that passes about his accomplishment and even brags about his brainy kid brother, making Sammy beam until he looks ready to burst.
The boys are hyped up on sugar when they get home - John still can't believe Dean ate the whole thing save the few bites he let Sam steal - so he lets them loose in the empty field behind the motel to play in the snow even though it's after dark. By the glare of the sodium security lights they make a misshapen snowman, or half of one anyway. Their project turns into a snowball fight about halfway through and even though Sam's no match for Dean's deadly accuracy he's wily and manages to duck out of the way and find creative ways to get back at his brother. They run around like wild things, whooping and hollering, until Amelia comes out, clutching her coat around her against the cold, and clucks at them for making so much noise.
They crash hard afterwards and John has to take Sam's shoes off for him when he falls asleep on the couch waiting for his turn to go brush his teeth in the bathroom. He lays his son in bed and for a moment, while Dean's still gargling up a storm, he's lets himself take a good look at his baby boy. His new school pants have turned into floods already, he's growing so fast. He'll be tall, this one - maybe even taller than his big brother. John makes a mental note to take them to Sears for more clothes; Dean's managed to wear out his sneakers already and they just bought them last September. He rises hastily when he hears Dean flick off the bathroom light, snapping out of the lull of domestication. After Dean shuffles off to bed, yawning heartily, John settles down with his journal. He hasn't updated it enough this year and the itch to get back to the hunt for the son of a bitch that killed his wife is getting harder to ignore.
In the spring Sam starts going to church with Amelia. He's always been curious about where she goes and why. When he asks – all innocence and naivety - if he can go with her John can't voice a good reason not to let him, at least not one he's willing to tell a boy of that age who doesn't know what really happened to his mother. So they head off together down the block each Sunday. John putters about feeling unsettled the whole time they're gone - for reasons he probably couldn't voice even if he did understand them - while Dean's off with his gang, hopefully not plotting another raid on Mrs. McGovern's fruit trees. Sam likes it, apparently, though John overhears him confessing later to Dean he doesn't like the old ladies who pinch his cheeks during the coffee and donuts afterwards in the hall, but it's worth it for the donuts. At the sound of pastries Dean perks up, but John fears he's thinking more of a target for a raid than attending services.
The school year ends so soon, it feels ephemeral, fleeting. The renovations are all done and John even spruced up the cottage for Amelia. There's a new waterpark going into business about six miles away and Amelia's already paid for advertising to lure vacationers to the motel this summer.
Sam has his kindergarten graduation and Dean manages to sit still for the whole thing, if you don't count a little kicking of the empty chair in front of him, which John doesn't. And then it's over.
John hears about a hunt in Wisconsin. Something has attacked some local kids and another hunter's already been on it for weeks and got nothing. He knows Garth's reputation - he's not smart enough to do more than point and shoot so he'll never catch anything more crafty than your average deer.
They pack the car not without a little sadness. Amelia makes them lunch for the road and a double batch of snickerdoodles to take with them. Sam hugs her tight around the neck and sniffles a little. She gives him a tiny bible and puts it in his school bag for him. Dean accepts her hug and mutters his thanks, trying to hide his emotions with a sudden interest in making sure his shoelaces are tied extra tight. She slips something into Dean's bag too, with a conspiratorial wink. Later when John asks him where he got the pocketknife Dean admits it's from Amelia. John knows deep down it was once Arthur's and that small gesture means a lot more to him than Dean will ever know.
Indiana's in the rear view, the interstate under the Impala's tires, they're on the road once again. The steering wheel feels good in John's hands, right. His foot's on the gas and the engine is purring, throaty and low, like she's brand new again.
Indiana was good, but John hopes Wisconsin won't be too bad either.