Y'all didn't actually think I was going to leave you hanging like that, did you? Seriously. That would be wrong. *snerk*
Title: A Warm Summer Rain
Genre: Gen, pre-series kinda
Word Count: 4375
Rating: PG13 for language
Spoilers: Up through Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, I'm just stalking them for a while.
Summary: "Are you from around here?" she asked. "I’m a teacher at the elementary school. Mrs. Jessup. Maybe you were one of my students when I was a little closer to the age of the woman who invited you over for a peek through her living room window."
Author's Note: Third in what turned out to be a trilogy. Who knew? Not me. First part is Parental Instincts, second is My Hero, by Dean Winchester.
A Warm Summer Rain
Upon reflection, he probably should have come on a weekday, but it was Saturday, they were finished with the job, and he wanted to check before they left. Just check. He was sure she wouldn’t still live there, but he couldn’t leave town without at least checking.
The house looked exactly the way he remembered it, but the trim was green now, instead of blue. It was sad, really, to still have such a clear memory of this place. He’d been here, what? A whole fifteen minutes, twenty years ago? It was more than sad, actually. Pitiful might be a better word for it.
But still, he remembered.
Standing on the street beside the Impala, Dean studied the house, looking for any obvious indicator of who lived here, what their name might be. It would be too easy, of course, for them to have hung a sign from the yard light, or nailed one to the too-white siding that proclaimed, "Welcome to the whoever-the-hell-we-ares."
No, that would be too easy and nothing was ever easy.
Hell, their mailbox wasn’t even streetside like a mailbox should be. Rather, it was right beside the front door, close enough to make rifling through the mail in search of a name a little bit like introducing yourself unless you had the cover of night to cover your ass while you were doing it.
Sighing, Dean stared at the house in an irritated kind of dismay, trying to figure out what the hell he was supposed to do now. The answer was obvious: Get back in the car, drive back to the motel, roust Sammy’s ass out of bed and get on the road again. That was the obvious right answer here, but he didn’t want to do it. Not without knowing first. It shouldn’t make a damn bit of difference, but it did.
He had no idea why, but it did.
Maybe they weren’t home. Or if they were, maybe they were asleep. It was still relatively early – well before ten am on the one day most working people could afford to sleep in without running the risk of getting fired or consigned to hell – so maybe he could risk a small peek in the front window just to see if anyone was up and about. And if they weren’t, maybe he could get by with walking up to the front door like he belonged here to abscond with a piece of irrelevant mail before a nosey neighbor got around to stirring their stumps to interference.
And maybe he’d win the freakin’ lotto while things were going his way. Because they did that so often … went his way.
Like their last hunt. That definitely went his way. Right down the crapper.
Rolling his shoulders at the memory, Dean grimaced a little as muscles flexed and unflexed around the dull ache of his spine, igniting half a dozen twinges and tweaks along the way. Fucking spirits anyway. How many times did he have to get thrown across a room, or out a window, or down a flight of stairs before it was Sammy’s turn, anyway?
What? Did the Powers that Be – if there even was such a thing – get their jollies seeing him busted up and bleeding? Was it some kind of turn-on to watch him hob across the room with a twisted knee or try to shave around the smattering of cuts running down the side of his face and neck from going through yet another pane of plate glass on his way to the ground outside.
The hard ground. Full of freakin’ rocks.
Dean sighed. He scratched absently at the pull of healing flesh along his cheekbone only to be reminded of the hella shiner stained like grape jelly around his right eye.
Well, the day wasn’t getting any younger and he wasn’t attracting any less attention just standing in the street like an idiot, so he decided what the hell, he’d give it a shot. What was the worst that could happen? He could get arrested for being a perv, or maybe shot by an irate husband, but at least he would have tried.
They could put that on his gravestone. Here lies Dean Winchester: He was one trying son of a bitch.
Moving casually like he wasn’t angling to get a peep inside a respectable house in a respectable neighborhood, Dean stepped out of the street and into the yard. He bent down, playing the good citizen retrieving garbage that didn’t exist as he glanced up, squinting through the sheer curtains to get about as half-assed a view of the inside as he was going to get unless he walked right up to the window and cupped his hands on the glass.
And that was when the front door opened.
Dean froze in place, his mind clicking like an abacus as he calculated the odds of playing it casual, lying, lying harder or just flat out running like a punk bitch caught peeping the neighbor’s window.
"Can I help you with something?" a woman called from the doorway.
It was her. But she didn’t sound too peeved. That was good. Or too freaked out. That was better. Or too prone to calling the cops. That was best.
Deciding that playing it cool with a good dose of lying harder was the way to go here, Dean shifted strategies from garbage retrieving to shoe tying. He looked up, lifting his hand in a casual wave as he flashed the woman at the door his best charm-the-socks-off-old-ladies smile. That was really Sam’s specialty – his being more along the lines of charm-the-panties-off-nubile-coeds – but he could improvise when necessary, and sometimes a little panties-charming worked as well on old ladies as sock-charming did.
Sometimes even better.
"No, thanks. Just tying my shoe," he called back.
"Before or after you got your peek in my window?" She didn’t sound charmed. Not out of either her socks or her panties. Stepping more fully out the door, she studied him with teacher eyes from the front porch, the kind that could not only tell you were lying about who ate your homework, but could also pick out a tobacco stain on your skivies from fifty yards out.
He risked a quick glance her direction.
She was older, of course, but still exactly the way he remembered her in the details, down to the color of her eyes and the way she had of looking like she disapproved but was willing to be convinced she was wrong if you tried hard enough. That expression made him nervous the first couple of months he was in her class, but he’d come to realize she wore it to keep from showing what an easy touch she was.
How kind she was, how much she was always looking to help a kid out rather than screw him over. That was probably a failing in her profession, so she hid it to keep from being eaten alive by kids who’d take an even break and turn it into an unfair advantage.
But as much as she might try to seem otherwise, she couldn’t really hide the way she was for long. Dean saw it in the way she just kept trying to reach him even though he had her on full-out ignore from day one.
And his dad had her number from the first time they met. He told Dean in the car on the way home from Parent’s Night that she was one of the good ones, one of the ones who cared more than she should and would help you out as much as she could.
He told Dean to take her an apple his first day back to class after Parent’s Night. It was one of the few times Dean remembered balking at something his dad suggested … balking to such a degree that his dad actually made it an order.
"Just do it," he’d said. "Trust me son, you won’t regret it."
Dean was sure she’d think he was the biggest geek ever born, some kind of punk suck-up bitch who was trying to buy her with shiny fruit and an Eddie Haskell routine.
But she didn’t. She smiled when he shoved it at her, muttering that it was from his dad, not from him; but it wasn’t the kind of smile he expected. It was one of those smiles you want instead of the kind that makes you feel like a moron, or a suck-up punk bitch. It was a smile that told him his dad was right, he wasn’t going to regret this; one that said she did understand it was a thank-you-for-giving-a-damn thing instead of a kiss-your-ass-with-fresh-fruit thing. She looked him straight in the eyes when she told him apples were her favorite thing.
He didn’t realize until weeks later that she was lying.
Dean stepped off her lawn quickly, ducking his head to keep from meeting her eyes. He hadn’t really expected it to be her. It had been twenty years. He was sure she wouldn’t still live here, or he never would have actually come.
"Sorry, ma’am," he called. "I thought someone else lived here. She kind of invited me over to take a peek, but I guess I got the wrong house. Sorry again. No offense intended."
He was backing away, turning to head for the Impala when she asked, "What happened to your face? Looks like you got in a bit of a tussle."
"That’s from the last wrong house I went to," he said, flashing her a wicked grin across the roof of the Impala between them. "And it wasn’t so much a tussle as a smack down. But I’m fine, ma’am. He was a big guy, but I can be a lot faster than I look when I need to be."
Okay, she was charmed now, smiling a little as he spoke.
He remembered that smile. Remembered how much it meant to him once, how much seeing it had made the world seem like a different place somehow.
A safer place.
"Sorry again," he said. "I really didn’t mean to disturb you."
"Nice car," she noted as he opened the door to get in.
He hesitated, glanced over at her again. She was looking at the Impala, not at him, so he felt safe to stay a couple moments longer, safe to talk to her for a minute just to remember what it felt like to hear her voice.
"Thanks. Used to be my dad’s."
"Really? You’ve kept it in excellent condition. It looks almost new."
"I re-built it recently," he said. Then he looked away, studied the far end of the street to keep what was in his head from slipping down into his eyes.
"Was it in an accident?" she asked.
He nodded. "Yeah. Just a fender bender though. Nothing serious, just enough to get me going, but once I had her on the blocks, it seemed like as good a time as any to apply a little spit and polish."
When she didn’t respond, he risked a glance at her. She was watching him the way he was afraid she would be.
"I should go," he said, but he didn’t make a move to go.
"Do I know you?" she asked with a small frown.
"No, ma’am. I don’t think so."
"Are you from around here?" she asked. "I’m a teacher at the elementary school. Mrs. Jessup. Maybe you were one of my students when I was a little closer to the age of the woman who invited you over for a peek through her living room window."
He chuckled and said again, "No, ma’am. I’m not from this area. Just passing through."
She didn’t believe him. He could see it in her eyes. "What’s your name?" she asked.
"John," he lied.
"Yes, ma’am. But I’m not from this area. I must just remind you of someone. Someone very handsome, no doubt."
"Dean," she said.
He tried not to react. He failed.
Her face broke to a delighted grin. "Oh, good Lord. Dean Winchester. Of course. This was your father’s car. I remember it now. The last time I saw this, he had a U-haul hitched to it, and you were doing your best to break my heart as you walked away and left me on my doorstep." She’d stepped away from her door, was standing at the top of three small stairs between her front stoop and the sidewalk. "What has it been? Twenty years, give or take?"
"I’m sorry," he heard himself saying. "You really do have me confused with someone else."
She looked hurt, wounded, more than a little surprised. She didn’t say anything for a long moment, then she said, "Well, I’d probably let you get by with that if I had any idea why you could possibly want me to believe such a thing. But as it is, I can’t think of a single reason why you’d lie to me, so I’m going to just pretend you didn’t and give you a chance to make amends. How’s your father?"
He actually flinched when she asked it. Flinched. Then looked away. Looked down the street again, tried not to hear his heart pounding in his ears, tried not to feel his skin flushing with pain.
"Oh," she said quietly "I’m sorry."
He couldn’t look at her. He just shook his head, kept looking at the end of the street.
"Why don’t you come inside for a while," she offered after several moments of awkward silence. "We could sit and talk like old times. You could tell me about dinosaurs, and I’ll tell you all about traditions and fables."
"I should go," he said again, his voice quiet, ashamed. "I didn’t come here for that. I just … I don’t know. I just wanted to see if you still lived here, I guess. I was curious."
"Dean, would you look at me, please?"
He looked at her. She’d come down from her stoop, was standing on the other side of the Impala now, watching him across the roof. The way she looked at him was so familiar. It made him feel like he was seven again. Made him feel like he was seven and he could sit beside her and tell knock-knock jokes, and somehow that would make everything better.
Make it hurt less.
Make everything feel a little less empty.
Jim used to make him feel that way. Until the year he spent in Mrs. Jessup’s class, Jim was the only one who ever made him feel that way.
"Come inside," she said. "Sit with me for a while. Please?"
He glanced at the house. "What about your husband?"
"My husband’s been dead for three years," she said.
He closed his eyes, opened them again. "I’m sorry."
She smiled sadly. "So am I. I miss him."
Dean nodded. He looked at his hands.
"I told him all about you, you know," she said. "He was very jealous of the boy who brought me chocolate chip cookies and invited me over to eat Thanksgiving dinner."
Dean smiled a little. "Yeah. I was quite the player at that age."
"You flirted very well for a second grader."
"I wasn’t flirting," he said before he realized he was actually saying it. He glanced at her, and she was smiling. "Okay, maybe a little. The shoes thing … that was flirting, I guess. But most of it was just me trying to make you like me."
"You didn’t have to try, Dean."
"Yeah. I could tell you had a crush on me from the first time you saw me."
She laughed at that. He smiled, remembering the sound of her laughter when he told her he’d heard chocolate was the way to a woman’s heart. His dad had coached him on that line for more than a half an hour before school, told him exactly what it meant, exactly how to say it so it would come off funny instead of stupid. He was so nervous he almost didn’t say it, so nervous he almost left her cookies on the corner of the desk and just skipped school that day.
He was so afraid she’d think he was some kind of freak, bringing cookies to his teacher like she’d think he was some big deal or something, like she’d give a shit that he and Sammy and dad has spent all weekend making cookies just to get seven of them that weren’t burned, or lumpy, or so God-awful tasting you could use them to exorcise a garbage demon.
When she asked him why seven, he’d almost had a heart attack. Why seven? Because there were only seven edible cookies in three bags of Toll House Chocolate Chips. But he couldn’t tell her that, so he said something about seven being a power number. When she bought it he felt like he’d climbed Mount Everest. He felt like the king of the world in some chick-flick Titanic way, and she was the only woman on the face of the planet he would ever love the way he loved her right at that moment.
Loved her when she laughed at his joke and didn’t think he was a freak for bringing her cookies.
He loved her that whole year. Not loved her the way he learned to love women later. Just loved her because she made him feel right. Made him feel there. Made him feel alive.
Alive like his mother used to make him feel.
He remembered how scared he was to go sit by her at lunch the first time. He was sure she’d tell him teachers and students couldn’t sit together in the lunchroom, and he’d have to go back to his table and sit alone again, have to walk all the way across that room in front of all those kids, every one of them knowing he went over to sit with her and she’d told him to go away.
He didn’t remember a single one of those kids now, but he remembered how isolated he felt from them at the time. How much they were living in one world all together, and he was living in a completely different world, all by himself.
All by himself, except for her.
Dad and Sammy were there, of course. And Jim. But she was different.
She was so very, very different.
Dad got it. They never talked about it at all, but Dad got it. He got it the moment he met her, understood why Dean talked about her so much, understood why he started reading books to Sammy, and why he started doing his homework so he’d have all the right answers when she called on him in class.
Talk about scared. The first time he raised his hand to answer one of her questions was worse than the first time he faced a pissy spirit bent on sending his ass straight to hell. He was scared she wouldn’t call on him; he was scared she would. He was scared he’d give the wrong answer; scared his throat would close up and he wouldn’t be able to give her any answer at all. Scared he’d misunderstand the question; scared he’s say something so stupid that everybody in the whole class would laugh at him, especially her, and he’d never be able to look her in the eyes again.
He was scared of everything when she called his name, so scared he almost gave up and looked down at his desk, pretending like she couldn’t see him, like nobody could see him because he wasn’t even there. But just as he was about to look away, look down, disappear forever and never come back, she smiled at him.
Smiled at him. Smiled like she knew he had the right answer, and she only called on him so he could show everybody else what she already knew. That Dean was smart. That Dean knew the answers. That Dean existed.
That he was there, and she could see him.
The way she smiled at him that day was the only reason he was able to work up the nerve to go sit with her at lunch a couple of weeks later. Because she thought he was smart. Because she didn’t laugh at him when he told her he liked her shoes; and because that one time he stopped at her desk and couldn’t think of a single thing to say so he told her what they’d had for dinner, she didn’t look at him like what in the hell did you tell me that for?
Even at seven, he knew that was the lamest thing anybody had ever said to anybody in the history of forever; but she just smiled a little and told him what she’d had for dinner. And what she’d had for dessert, too.
It was the coolest thing anybody had ever done for him – at least, anybody that wasn’t Dad or Sammy or Jim – and it made him willing to risk that long walk across the lunchroom with his lunch sack clutched in one hand, knowing every kid in the place thought he was the lamest freak ever, and she was going to put him in his place and send him back where he came from, and she didn’t.
She just didn’t.
"Yes, you’re absolutely right, Dean," she said. "I had the biggest crush on you all year long. We were the talk of the teacher’s lounge. There was a school-wide pool on whether or not you’d ask me to the second grade dance."
He flicked her a quick glance. "There was no second grade dance," he said. "Or I probably would have."
"You were a player at that age," she teased.
"You should see me now," he quipped.
And she laughed. Laughed like she did when he told her chocolate was the way to a woman’s heart. "I’ll just bet you are. The first time I met your father, I knew you were going to grow up to be just like him."
He had to look away, had to look down to keep her from seeing what her words did to him, how deeply they cut, how much they made him bleed.
"Oh, Dean." She reached out across the Impala, put her hand on his and squeezed. "I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m … I’m so sorry."
He nodded. "Got an orange?" he asked.
She squeezed his hand harder.
He looked up then, looked right at her. "He died saving my life. We were … we worked together. A semi t-boned the Impala. He died saving me. Gave his life for mine."
"That doesn’t surprise me," she said quietly.
"I hate him for it." He almost choked on the words. Almost broke down right there, almost fell apart right in the street, holding hands with his second grade teacher across the roof of the Impala between them.
"Don’t," she said.
"I can’t help it. I do."
"Don’t," she said again. "He’s your father, Dean. He was your hero." She smiled at him, tears in her eyes. "That’s what heroes do."
"He and Sammy are all I had. All I’ve ever had."
"He was your father," she said again. "If he could save you, there wasn’t anything else he could do. You can’t blame him for that. It isn’t fair to blame him for loving you that much."
Dean put his forehead down on the roof of the car. The heat from the morning sun had baked the metal warm. He closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing, concentrated on the warmth of his father’s car against his face, the warmth of his teacher’s hand in his.
"Come inside for a while," she said again after several long moments of silence. "Come sit with me and talk."
He looked up, met her eyes. He could feel tears on his face, and it didn’t matter. He wasn’t scared of how she’d see him, that she’d see him.
She’d always been able to see him. There was a time in his life when that made all the difference in the world.
He felt that way now. He felt like her seeing him made all the difference in whether or not he still existed.
"Do you mind?" he asked quietly.
She smiled. "I’ve missed our talks," she said.
"I have, too," he returned.
Sam called at a quarter till one. He wanted to know what Dean was doing, where in the hell he’d disappeared to with out so much as a note. Dean told him to hold on to his panties, he’d be back in half an hour.
He didn’t leave Mrs. Jessup’s house for another two hours. Sam called seven times in those two hours. Dean let the call bounce to voice mail every time, making a different joke at Sam’s expense every time:
"He’s worse than a girlfriend."
"He probably has a question about quantum physics."
"He can’t find his own shoes without me there to hold his hand."
"Now he’s just trying to piss me off."
"Bet he’s twelve shades of red right now."
"Probably can’t figure out how to turn the TV on."
"Gotta love him. If you didn’t, you’d have to kill him."
By the time Dean left her house, he felt like something had shifted inside him. The hollow shell he’d become since his dad’s death seemed a little less hollow, a little less empty, a little less filled with nothing but the nothing of nothing. It wasn’t really a change so much as it was just a difference.
A difference that made a difference.
He hugged her when he left, held on to her as long as he wanted to hold on to her, and then a couple seconds longer so he could whisper in her ear, "I won’t ever forget you, Mrs. Jessup."
He let go of her then and walked away without a backward glance. He could feel her watch him leave, and it felt like seven chocolate chip cookies and a shiny, red apple washed clean by a warm, summer rain.
the full trilogy ...
1. Parental Instincts
2. My Hero, by Dean Winchester
3. A Warm Summer Rain
Plus one ...
A Fast, Cold Current