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Summer 2019
Indiana For Now 
4th-Sep-2008 08:46 am
Title: Indiana For Now

Author: emmademarais

Recipient: cedarlibrarian

Rating: PG

Notes: 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.
4th-Sep-2008 02:27 pm (UTC)

Aw, boys. It's lovely to see them have a slice of domesticity. Especially knowing what's coming in Wisconsin.
9th-Sep-2008 09:12 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'm so glad the Wisconsin reference was clear. I shouldn't have been worried about people getting it, given this fandom, but it made me very happy to see your comment first up. /cheers/

Thanks so much for reading!
4th-Sep-2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
this is just beautiful!
9th-Sep-2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
4th-Sep-2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
Well done! Like it a lot.
9th-Sep-2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
Many thanks!
4th-Sep-2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this.
9th-Sep-2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
My pleasure.
4th-Sep-2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
Very sweet. So many moments reminded me of my own Indiana childhood. Loved the enormous sundae, and Dean's little posse, Sam's fierce enjoyment of reading, John fixing cars in the afternoon. Beautiful little slice of life.
9th-Sep-2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful thing to hear! I drove through Indiana not long ago, but past that I can't claim any real knowledge of the area. I had to pull out my atlas to figure out which roads were in the area save the 80 which I knew already. I did have a part of the state in mind so that helped.

Ironically, there's a town called Cedar Lake right in the area I had in my mind for the fic so it was perfect for a recipient named cedarlibrarian! (Amusingly St. John is close and there's a blue line running through the U in nearby Munster so it looked like Monster at first glance. LOL)

The sundae is based on the Pig Trough at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor if you know of them at all. They gave you a ribbon or something if you ate the whole thing by yourself. /grins/

Thanks so much for reading and for your lovely comment!
4th-Sep-2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
Very nice! Love little bits of normal in their lives. Great little details, like Sam outgrowing his clothes, Dean's posse, the snowball fight, and John missing Mary.
9th-Sep-2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm normally a minimalist so it took a little effort to make sure there were nice little details in there, but once I had them in I really loved them. I almost want to write posse fic now since they were so much fun in my head.
5th-Sep-2008 12:21 am (UTC) - respite
i love your insight into john. it makes perfect sense that he can't let himself feel too happy, but i still itch to make him think about how that affects the boys. also some wonderful vignettes that capture sam and dean's personalities. lovely!
9th-Sep-2008 09:39 pm (UTC) - Re: respite
Thank you! Most widowers would grieve for a number of years and then move on even if just for the sake of the kids, but five years later John's still stuck, thanks to the supernatural element of the death. He's got enough sense and caring to stay put for Sam's first year of school, but it's clearly hard on him: he wants to get out and find the SOB that killed his wife. He can't find and fight the YED so in the interim hunting helps funnel his urge for revenge into something helpful - to others.

I had a great time writing wee!chesters in the past, but this was even better since I got to spend more time exploring what they'd be like as normal kids. Dean's definitely Dean and the beginnings of college bound Sam are already apparent. I'm definitely going to have to come back to this period. It's just right, coming right before the Wisconsin Shtriga. /sigh/

Anyway, enough blathering on. I'm glad you enjoyed the fic. Thanks for reading!
5th-Sep-2008 12:27 am (UTC) - Nice
This was a lovely vignette - and the underlying notes were perfect - that Dean could do well with normal, that Wisconsin would be their next stop, that Sam would go to church.....fantastic little touches to perfect a great fic!
9th-Sep-2008 09:42 pm (UTC) - Re: Nice
Thank you so much!

I really did try to insert little references to canon to boost the believability of the fic and to make it feel more like a moment out of time in their lives. The Wisconsin angle is enough to remind you it's all about to come crashing down, and it makes it sad, but more real: that is their world after all, despite the brief school year respite from it.
5th-Sep-2008 06:46 am (UTC)
That when things are best, when the boys are happiest and he happy with them, that those times are when he misses Mary most is just painfully poignant. This is a beautiful little look at them in a year of peace and normal. Nicely done.
9th-Sep-2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
That when things are best, when the boys are happiest and he happy with them, that those times are when he misses Mary most

Yes, you nailed it right there. That's exactly what I was going for. It's so perverse that when his family should be at its happiest John can't allow himself the full measure of joy. It's no wonder John's so dark, he's no longer capable of real happiness or any sort of contentedness. He'll always feel that void.

Thanks for reading and for your wonderful comment.
5th-Sep-2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, this was such a sweet look at their life. I hope they really did get a few times like this.
9th-Sep-2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I know they won't show much of it in canon - it's too boring by comparison - but I like thinking they did have them because it makes me happy to envision them.
5th-Sep-2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
This is a lovely look at John. And your prose is very lyrical. The first section with the boys on the swing paints a beautiful picture. I could so see it in my head. Loved it!
9th-Sep-2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! A compliment from you means a great deal to me.

To be fair I stepped a little out of my normal style to be more descriptive, but the prompt seemed to warrant it. It was more about the experience of a blissful normal life (a la Our Town) so it had to be peppered with evocative moments of childhood and family so the feel of the peaceful year resonated in lieu of a proper plot.

I adore John and as much as I would have loved to have written a truly idyllic year it would never have happened as long as I kept him in character. He could never allow himself time off like that. His grief - and his onus - is a yoke he wears about his neck; it wears him down every day.

I'm not a visual writer, but I saw the boys on the swings so clearly myself, it was like a little gift this prompt gave to me. I'm glad I have it now.

Thanks again for reading and for your lovely comment.
(Deleted comment)
9th-Sep-2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
Hee! Thank you SO much again for all your help betaing this!

I just posted this on my LJ today so if you read the Confession comment post after the fic you'll see that I finally got to thank you by name. Yay!

I owe you big time now, so feel free to collect any time. /grins/
5th-Sep-2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, John. How sad for him that being happy just reminds him of Mary. That is a reaction conducive to moving on.
9th-Sep-2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
It breaks my heart that he's like this, that he can be surrounded by joyful moments in his kids' lives and not be able to really enjoy them.

Thanks for reading and commenting.
6th-Sep-2008 02:22 am (UTC)
Oh, man, I love this.

Just yes. And YAY for cedarlibrarian for offering up this prompt!

I kind of like the point that John may have stayed in one place all of Dean's kindergarten year, too, that his learning could have been far less on the practical side at that time. That and mechanic!John make me very, very happy.

(I also have to agree that Dean was 9 before he could reach the pedals--though I think John taught him to steer before that! Love his debate with himself, too.)

Great job!
11th-Sep-2008 07:04 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it! And yes, awesome prompts. I actually included several extra ones in reference since they were all so good.

I posted this fic on my LJ with extended author notes (found in the Confession comment post, first comment on the fic) in which I list all the prompts I used plus some information about Dean driving. I definitely think he's steered before and then some, but in this fic John is finally considering teaching him so he can drive solo. (Well technically without assistance since the idea is he would be driving himself and Sammy away to safety in an emergency.)

Dean was like four when Mary died, right? So I can see John's first year or two without her being too soon to go hunting. He doesn't know enough and Sam is still an infant who requires constant care. Once Sam is like at least three or four or so he probably would have felt better leaving him in Dean's care for short periods.

I think one day I might have to write a normal life AU where the family grows up without any supernatural involvement. John and Dean work at Winchester and Son Auto Repair and John talks about handing over the business to Dean when he retires. I love the idea of them working on cars in the garage side by side, radio blaring classic rock as two head bob slightly in time with the music. /smiles/

Thanks so much for reading and for your great comment!
7th-Sep-2008 12:12 am (UTC)
Wow, I think you broke me. That is wonderful. I don't know if I ever felt John's pain so vividly.
11th-Sep-2008 07:08 am (UTC)
Yay! Someone I actually know read my SPN fic! /beams/

/waves to Killa/

Surprise! Bet you didn't see me coming. ;-)

I love your comment, btw. John's pain is so palpable to me and I sadly have enough grief of my own to draw from, so it just seeped into an otherwise content little slice of life fic. I'm glad because it made it real, it made it more canon and it made me feel John more than I ever have and I *love* writing John.

Thanks for reading this and for your great comment. It means a lot to me.
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