Rating: PG - wee!chesters - Gen
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: John gets a phone call from Dean's school in the middle of a hunt.
The town they had found was nice.
There was a park at its center and every building was made up so the place would look like some kind of village instead of whatever it actually was supposed to be. All with wooden shutters and painted in pastel yellows, greens and blues. Even the post office and the small grocery store looked like some kind of cartoon. The house was nice too in that way houses were. Wall to wall carpeting. Fresh paint on the walls. Three entire working bathrooms with water that ran clear from every tap. The lease was for six months but they’d be gone long before that.
It hadn’t even been 24 hours before the neighbors showed up at their door with a foil covered casserole dish and a six-pack of cheap beer.
They were a nice couple. He drove for one of those delivery companies in one of those vans. She worked at the local pre-school. Had two kids too, both a little younger than John’s boys. They were both real sorry to hear about the cancer that took their mother at such a young age. It became so awkward that for a hopeful moment John thought they might excuse themselves and leave. But would John be interested in setting up some play dates?
The look on Dean's face made John smile one of his better smiles.
No, that was actually quite okay seeing on how John’s mother came in just about all the time from Fort Wayne and watched them all the time. Right over on the bus, bless her soul! Yeah, it sure was nice to have family near by to count on when he had to travel so much. But he was sure his boys would see their kids every day on the school bus.
The mother with the dried out casserole tried a little harder. She was pretty when John made the attempt to really pay attention. Pretty in one of those settled Midwestern middle aged ways. Beige pants, sensible sweaters and white sneakers. Maybe, she asked, one of these days John’s youngest, the eight year old, could come on over and do one of those sleepovers? Her son, just turned seven, would just love that.
John listened to the words come out of his mouth as he shook his head. Even considering the idea of his son in a stranger’s house for the duration of an entire night forced some effort to keep his smile a pleasant one. His boys weren’t spending any time with the next door’s kids. Not with some complete unknowns that thought that bringing over some shitty food and a couple beers made them best friends. Who knew what kind freaks those people could end up being?
John waved at the father guy a few times when they happened to be outside getting the paper at the same time.
They were going to have to be really careful with these bastards.
Despite it all, it was a perfect place to get both of his kids enrolled in school.
Dean only fought him a little bit. Sammy didn’t fight at all. He bought them some new clothes, a few notebooks and all that shit. He told them not to miss that yellow bus or people were going to start looking for them. Because if they couldn’t be found, then the next stop would be their fake grandmother. If that didn’t stop the chain of meddling command, the last stop would be him. John didn’t want it to be him. Ever. They had to do what they were told. They had to show up on time exactly where they needed to be. In fact, wherever they were required to go, they’d better show up half an hour early.
Don’t give anyone a reason to suspect. Don’t provide one single inch to let someone out there start wondering. Don’t do anything but fit the fuck right in. If anyone asked his boys any questions, even what the nosiest could devise, his kids knew exactly what they should say.
They knew the drill and quickly fell into the routine of it.
They traveled to and from school, moving through the house and all its rooms like ghosts while he concentrated on his work. Their presence always reminded him to eat. The eventual silence and lack of lights reminded him to check the time when he should sleep.
For the first few weeks John used the empty dining room floors to lay out exactly everything he had. The printouts and the news papers started to travel up the walls before he finally got what he wanted pinned down. It all sat interlaced and pasted in a perfect mosaic under the dusty faux crystal chandelier that John had put in a few bulbs in for light. Not bad for the time table he’d set. But that was the easy part. Now he had to go looking for the area out in the woods about a days ride south of here. He had a good feeling about this one.
A really good feeling.
John ignored it the first three times it rang. The ringer was off, set to buzz.
It wasn't the emergency set pattern he'd taught his kids if they really needed him. And when he was out on a case they had better really need him if he felt that Morse code buzz its way into the palm of his hand. If someone wasn’t bleeding to death they knew better than to pick up that phone and that had better have been after they dialed 911.
But this was no code. This was just persistent.
Shoving himself into the car, he dug his hand down into his rain soaked jacket, and yanked out his phone. The display lit up as he found it, soft blue, beaded with water and flashing a number he didn't recognize. A quick look at the memory shown him that this was the same number that had been hacking away at him all day long.
He flipped the cell open.
There was a woman's voice on the line. She addressed him formally which meant one of several things. They knew him personally, he'd been referred or this was about his kids. John tried to concentrate on the terse voice over the rain drumming loudly on the car’s hard metal top.
“L-Look, if this is a suspension just do whatever it is you feel is necessary—“
The woman’s voice rose a little to interrupt him.
“No, yes, b-but I’m sure he can bring home whatever paper work is required , he’s done it before—“
The voice road over him, not stopping until she finally got her message across.
"This afternoon?" John repeated. “Today?”
He looked at his mud splattered watch. It would take him about six hours to get even anywhere near the town his boys were in. If he left right now, pedal to the floor he'd get there just before they starting putting up the chairs and shutting off the lights.
John looked back regretfully back into the tangle of woods he’d just navigated his way out off. It had been a morning of mud, cold rain and a ground wire fence that was harder to find than usual. These residence security guys were getting better at keeping the riff raff at bay or John was getting rusty. Probably both. For four days he’d waited for this house to finally be empty and its contents free for him to look through at his leisure. It had taken one day as it was just to disarm all the cameras and safety measures that the place supported.
The hand that gripped the phone gripped it a little bit tighter.
"I'll be there."
Clenching his jaw, he snapped the phone closed and tossed it sideways onto the cluttered seat beside him. Wrestling out of his drenched jacket he pushed it aside, and extracted the several loaded weapons he had concealed within its various pockets. He jammed the car into gear, the icy damp engine taking more than a moment to warm up to a good solid idle.
“This better be good Dean.”
He knew he was breaking his own rules.
When he came back into these small outlets of civilization he usually made sure he wore his one clean white shirt, shaved, and made sure his hair was combed back. Played the part like he played any of the others. This part tended to have to be more believable than half of what he usually tried to pull off.
He didn't do any of that this time. The effect of his disregard for his appearance came home when he saw the face of the office secretary. Her quick suggestion to get him a hot cup of coffee and a seat on the scratchy sofa that sat in the waiting area poorly disguised her alarm. John knew what he must look like. A guy that had been out in the woods and the weather for god knows how long doing who knew what. Picking up a Better Homes & Gardens magazine, he realized he had forgotten what he had told this conglomeration of real world adults just exactly what he did for a living.
That usually made the looks refocus and reconsider. John let the scalding cup of coffee thaw his freezing hands. He crossed his leg over his knee, feeling for a moment maybe what it may be like if he was just any parent here waiting with some odd dread and trepidation of what their spawn had done to warrant their demanded presence on the school grounds.
"It's good to meet you Mr. Betts."
“Call me John.”
He gave the man who appeared his hardest handshake, always enjoying that slight look of unease another person’s face when their hand was slightly crushed inside his own.
"We've tried to contact you earlier this week but--"
John held up his hand. "I think I know what this is about."
Most schools he started his boys in had a problem like this for the first few weeks or so. As much as he told his oldest the need to fit in was the most important thing to focus on something like this always ended up happening.
With a half smile, he had to hand it to Dean. His ability to make friends and influence people had been pretty much crap ever since they had started this entire school gig. The kid always ended up starting fights, making other parents livid and making the teaching staff sigh a lot. John couldn’t count all the sorts of letters and citations regarding how his kid needed anger counseling, special classes, and ten different forms of therapy. Some suggested a military school environment.
Name it. These school types thought his kid needed it. If these tremble eyed guidance types even knew what actual real problems were he wondered if they’d be singing the same tune. Would they be so quick to jump the gun on the list of disorders that it seemed most youth owned if they really knew his son at all? Some kids might suppress their messes better than his boy, but being a pain in the ass wasn’t something that John thought required medication. Besides, the boy was picture perfect at home. What he did in the halls of the public middle school system wasn’t his problem. If he actually ever indeed paid any state taxes, wouldn’t this kind of thing be exactly what he would be paying for?
“Y-Your son has been involved in some altercations with some other students here on school grounds….”
What was it now? Dean broke a kid’s nose? Sprained a wrist stopping a clumsily thrown punch? Maybe he made another kid’s arm go numb with pinching down too hard on a bundle of nerves John had shown him a few months back. Dean could have explained that the feeling would come back eventually. His kid had gotten kicked out of classes and even entire schools for less. John only needed a few more days, why did Dean have to pull this bullshit now of all times?
“He’s still in the nurse’s office, but we’ve been informed he will still be needing to see a doctor. Of course all of that is completely at your discretion, we couldn’t reach you and we don’t seem to have any of your insurance information on file—“
“Doctor?” John’s brow furrowed.
The man that had been identified as Dean’s counselor pushed up the thin rims of his glasses and took a deep breath.
“Your son has a little bit of difficulty... fitting in.”
John knew what may have passed on by as a little quiet and a bit different in the younger grades could have evolved with this new found school of children all on the verge of their teens. Despite the sneakers John made sure were what every other kid was wearing, and the jacket most kids wished they were, there was always the possibility Dean still might stick out from all the other children in class as if no effort had been made at all.
But John saw it there, right in the man’s eyes. He was telling him that Dean was it. He was the weird kid. The odd one out. The one that dressed differently or just didn't wear it right. Talked oddly. Argued when he should be laughing. Didn’t get the jibes. Ended up being the end of the joke instead. Ended up in fights.
And for once, Dean wasn't the one that had started it.
John looked back down at his muddy jacket self consciously.
“The yard monitors broke it up as fast as they could, but keep in mind, these boys are almost teenagers..."
“How many of them were there?” John asked with a sigh.
“We know of five other children involved, but we are still interviewing a few more of the class that were present during the... the... incident.”
John realized he was staring at the counselor and stopped. If this guy called what sounded like a good old fashioned gang style ass kicking an ‘incident’ just one more time he’d show him what the term really meant.
“Just let me take him home.” John said numbly.
“The thing is, y-your son did fracture one of the student’s arms, and the parent has intentions of pressing charges, I think you should really get the entire story—“
“I think I got it.” John said shortly. “Let them to have their lawyer fax me. Better yet, have the kid’s old man come right on over to my house.”
The small man in wire rims blinked uncertainly at him.
“You know, talk it out man to man.” John winked at him without the smile that usually went with it.
"The principle thought it would be a good idea to speak with—“
“Where’s my boy?”
“He’s in the nurse’s station but—"
Shoving the glass doors wide open, John went to go find his son.
Dean was staring down at the pale blue tiled floor.
Although his kid had been doing some growing that past summer, he seemed smaller to John when he saw him. Hunched over into himself. His hands pulled up close to his stomach. His ankles crossed.
John sighed and fell down into the metal folding chair that was the only seat in the room besides the paper wrapped table his son was seated on. The room was filled with the scent of rubbing alcohol and the sharp chemical smell of fresh plastic garbage bags. There was an underlying reek of antiseptic that always smelled too much like lemons but somehow not at all. The small sink that sat in the corner dripped slowly. The overhead fluorescent lights buzzed.
Dean's new blue shirt was pretty torn up. His jacket was missing all together. Some deep scratches on the side of his face ended under some gauze that completely covered his right eye. His right hand and left were both in some kind of Velcro braces.
“Lose any teeth?” John thought to ask.
Dean shook his head.
John took in the white bandage that was seeping red out from under the deep tear in one denim knee. Dean hadn't gotten all this without giving some of it back. John wondered for the first time just exactly what else his son had left on his classmates besides sending a fracture through someone’s bones.
“5 to 1.” John whistled. “Those are some kind of odds.”
“6.” Dean suddenly said defensively.
“You almost snapped a kids arm.”
Dean made a soft sound that resembled disappointment.
“So,” John sat back and crossed his arms. “What do you wanna do?”
His son finally tore his gaze off the floor and hazarded a look up at his father. He worked his sore jaw a little before he spoke.
“Those guys, they surprised me.” Dean mumbled as his sneakers kicked uncertainly against the table he was sitting on. “I-I wanna try it again.”
Closing his eyes for a moment, John rubbed his hand over the tired smile he knew he shouldn’t have across his face. Luckily, his son was once again too busy looking down at his feet to notice.
“I meant, what do you want to do now? Do you really want to go to school here?”
His question held his real one. Did he really want to go to school anywhere? He’d be the same kid no matter what state line they crossed, and these 9 to 5 suburbanite children were going see right through him no matter where they set up camp. John thought of Sammy, somewhere right here in the same school sitting at some desk. Doing what he was told. Fitting in as best as he was able.
His older child was quiet.
“Just say the word Dean. I know you could learn a hell of a lot more on your own anyway.”
“At-At home?” Dean finally looked up at him, his one visible eye bruised and puffy. But despite the damage, John could see the desperate hope there. Working his hands in the plastic braces, Dean lowered his gaze again and gnawed at his lower lip.
John felt what there was of his humor fade as he thought of the state his kids hands were probably in. Impact fractures maybe, defense and offensive bruising from hitting something too hard that was hitting back.
“If the job isn’t too bad,” John considered. “Out with me even.”
He got up and put a stabilizing grasp around his kid’s arm as Dean started to slide to the table’s edge. Without answering him, Dean gingerly hopped down, wobbling slightly on a bum ankle John hadn’t spotted until just then.
He let Dean carefully limp out the door before him. There were probably papers to sign. Forms to fill out. He sort of wished someone would actually try to suggest he do any of that right at the moment. Vent a little. Maybe threaten to write a strongly worded memo to the PTA.
John slid his hand down on his son’s thin shoulder.
“Ya know, for those kinda odds, I say you came out pretty good.”
Dean looked up at him again, squinting with his good eye.
“Yeah,” he smiled a little. “I did okay.”