Disclaimer: Indiana Jones et al are not mine... (though I'd be good to 'em if they were) I'm just glad to have the Man in the Hat back on the big screen again. :) And the kid wasn't so bad, either!

Indiana Jones and the Silver Bullet
Fall, 1957

"How long has he been out there?"

Marion looked up from the recipe book, brushed back a strand of dark hair, and glanced in the direction of her husband's gaze. Her glance softened gently. "Since he got home from school," she said quietly. "I don't think it was a stellar day."

Her husband sighed and nodded. "Yeah, it doesn't appear to have been." He rubbed the back of his neck tiredly and walked over to the coffee pot. "I got a call after lunch from the principal. Mutt's having trouble with one of his teachers… English. Or maybe I should say the teacher's having trouble with Mutt." Indy pulled down one mug, then palmed another, gesturing it toward his wife.

She nodded her thanks, stirred in the last of the seasonings to the stew and covered the Dutch oven, walking over to the counter and accepting the cup of coffee her husband had poured.

After a few moments of sipping in silence, Marion studying her husband as Indy's attention seemed locked on the coffee in his cup, Indy finally tilted his head up slightly and peered at her through a cockscomb of graying hair. "Am I wrong?" he asked very quietly.

Hmmm... second thoughts in "Mr. I-Know-What's-Best-For-You?" "'Bout what?" she asked, though she knew very well 'what'.

He rolled his eyes. "Forcing him to finish high school."

She smiled and, clasping her cup in her right hand, stroked his cheek with her left. "No. No, I don't think you're wrong. He does, but I don't. God knows I tried."

Indiana sighed, leaning a hip against the kitchen counter, shoulders drooping a moment. Then he steeled himself, set the cup down and stood straighter, putting on what Marion was beginning to recognize as his "stern father" persona. "I guess I'd better go see what he's got to say for himself." It was like hearing the last words of a condemned man…

Marion took a final sip of her coffee, then put out a hand, staying her husband's progress and tilted her head to one side. "Give me a minute with him, would you?"

Indy shook his head. "I'm the one forcing him to do this, you shouldn't have to-"

She put a hand to his lips, silencing him. "I've known him for seventeen years… you've only had eleven weeks. Trust me."

He remembered the last time she'd said that; they'd all hung, suspended in a tree, waiting for the amphibious vehicle to hit the river… He was brought back from his memory by a kiss on the cheek, and she was gone out the back door.

Mutt sat facing the slowly setting sun, leaned back in one of the two Adirondack chairs they had in the back yard under the beautiful ancient oak tree. Any other time, sitting still this long would have driven him nuts, but he felt so… defeated. The youngster swallowed hard and closed his hazel eyes. Those eyes were circled with lack of sleep, his weariness almost palpable.

He'd tried. God knows he'd been trying hard to do what his parents wanted of him. But most of the time he felt trapped and caged in. He'd been pretty much in charge of his own destiny for nearly eight months now; to have that self-direction yanked away was a bitter pill to swallow. Even worse was being forced back into a classroom with a bunch of teeny-boppers and greaser-wanna-bes. He couldn't really say he blamed Mom and the old man; for anyone else, any other kid, they were probably right. But he just didn't think he was cut out for this school scene at all. What the hell was he gonna use all that crap for anyway? There wasn't anything they taught in high school that was useful, for Chrissake!

He jumped slightly as he heard the steps behind him to his right, but immediately relaxed when he felt the gentle hand on his DA. Mom.

"Ya shouldn't sneak up on people like that," he said quietly, automatically pulling out his comb and fixing any perceived mars to his perfect DA.

She said nothing, just leaned over and kissed his forehead, then slid into the chair beside him. They sat in silence for a few moments as the sun continued to set.

"Bad day?"

Mutt swallowed hard, and shrugged.

"Honey – "

"They're all bad days, Mom," he declared dully.

Marion winced. "Mutt… why won't you talk to him?"

"Because it'd be a waste of breath an' you know it!" snapped her son, pulled himself forward in the chair and leaning his forearms on his knees. " ' No son of mine is going to be a high school dropout!' " Mutt mimicked, then shook his head.

"He was."

Startled, Mutt glanced at her. "What?"

"I said, he was. A high school dropout."

Mutt's jaw dropped. "But… he's a professor. A teacher!"

"Yeah, now. But not at seventeen. At seventeen he spent the summer with a cousin near the Mexican border, and took off with Pancho Villa."

"Yeah, so he said," Mutt grunted. "He just left out the part that he wasn't done with school yet!" he added sarcastically.

Marion grinned. "Well, that ain't all, kid. Then he lied about his age and enlisted in World War I… and not even as an American, as a Belgian, I think…"

Mutt's eyes widened. "Bull...shit!" He leaned forward, hanging on Marion's words.

Got 'im! Marion thought. "And went on and had God knows how many adventures before deciding that there had to be something more to life than risking his fool neck every time he turned around." Marion crossed her legs and clasped her hands around her knee, deep in thought. "It wasn't until he was close to 19 or 20, I think, that he came back to the United States and enrolled at the University of Chicago. It was different then, you could enroll in college more easily, didn't have to have a high school diploma. Can't have been easy going back to school after being his own man for such a long time." Before her son had a chance to really get this information integrated, Marion leaned forward and tapped her son's knee. "You know, it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't have some idea of what you were going through. He might even have an idea or two on how to deal with it." She rose to her feet, heading back to the house. "But of course, what do I know… "

Mutt stared at his mother's back, consternation registering on his face along with disbelief, shock and annoyance. He was torn between wanting to really let his father have it for giving him a hard time about quitting school when he'd done the same himself, and admiration for someone going back to the grindstone after so much freedom. He sank back into the chair, thinking hard as the sun finally set, until he heard his mother call him in to supper.

"Coffee, honey?"

"Yes, please," Indy nodded, as he started to gather dishes and rise to help Marion clear, and was about to gesture to Mutt to help.

"No, you two relax. I can get this. One-pot suppers are easy to clean up," Marion said calmly. She gathered up their plates, not commenting on the fact that Mutt hadn't eaten much, and eyed Indy meaningfully as she bumped open the swinging door between the dining room and kitchen with her rear end before disappearing into the kitchen.

Uncomfortably, Indy glanced over at Mutt, who was distracted and thoughtful… and had been all but silent as he'd picked at his supper. "So… I got a call from school today," he said quietly. He hoped a quiet acknowledgement of the situation might forestall a shouting match; God knows stern confrontations didn't work too well.

For a moment, Indy thought the boy mightn't have heard, and was about to repeat himself, but then Mutt set down the spoon with which he'd been making invisible designs on the table cloth, and crossed his arms, tilting his head to one side, his gaze filled with contempt. "Were you ever gonna tell me that you dropped outta school, too?" the boy accused, his voice cold.

Taken aback, Indy's jaw dropped. Shit! How did he --? Part of him wanted to upbraid the youngster for his tone of voice, but somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard the words "Kid's got you there, smart guy!"

Swallowing, Indy leaned back and scratched his ear. "Well… it wasn't exactly the same kind of circumstances," he said uneasily, trying to regain control of the conversation. "I was kidnapped, I didn't drop out. And we were talking about you, not m--"

"Yeah, right. I've seen you in action, remember?" sneered Mutt. "You'd'a got away if you really wanted to. Somethin' tells me that getting out of having to go back to school suited you right down to the ground." Mutt punctuated his sentence by jabbing his forefinger into the tablecloth.

Indy had the grace to blush a little. He swallowed hard, studying first his son's outraged face, then his own hands. He sighed, and nodded. "…. Yeah. Yeah, it did," he admitted quietly. "For awhile, anyway."

Mutt's eyes widened. Well, now, THAT wasn't what he'd expected!

Indy leaned forward, earnestly trying to connect with his boy. "Mutt, I'm not going to lie to you; I understand completely how good freedom feels, and how miserable it feels to believe your freedom is gone. But, kid, sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do in the short term in order to get what we do want in the long term. And an education…" helplessly, Indiana spread his hands, struggling to find the words to unlock his son's angry, cold heart. "It's the silver bullet, kid. The silver bullet."

"I hate it!"

"I heard you the first hundred tmes!!" Indy snapped back, once again startling the boy. "Look, bud! You think I don't know how it feels to have fought for your life one day and have to sit through some old fart's boring lecture on parsing a sentence the next? To have struggled against the most horrendous odds and come out on top, just to find yourself having to make believe that wondering who you'd be taking to the dance Saturday night was an exciting enough question?!" Indy ran a hand through his graying hair in frustration. Temper, I've got to keep my temper…

Mutt slapped the table. "Exactly! None o' this matters, Dad!" he exclaimed, hands out wide in supplication.

Indy shook his head. "No, Mutt, it does matter. The knowledge, the education, that's what matters. That's the diamond in all this. The hard part is that the gem is .. well, the gem's packaged in a pretty inferior setting, that's all." Indiana gazed at his young son earnestly, a little apologetically, as if to say, "I'm really sorry about all this, but it's for your own good…" begging the kid to understand why he had to be firm.

Mutt stared at his father, saw him trying so hard, then burst out laughing. The kid leaned back in his chair and shook his head. Then the laughter stopped as images of the horrors he'd seen and faced together with Indy and his mother and Ox all those months ago flooded his mind. He sighed, closed his eyes and leaned his head down on crossed arms. "How do you do it? How do you get through the days?" he mumbled into his shirtsleeves, bravado gone.

Indiana sighed tenderly and reached out, first gently squeezing, then massaging the boy's shoulder. "You come up with less dangerous ways to let off steam," he said gently. "I got into boxing and beat the crap out of a hanging heavy bag. Got into rock climbing. And chopped a helluva lot of wood for the woodstove in my boarding house. It also helped that I was a little older, Mutt. It's not a put down when I say this, kid: you've got some growing up to do. Give yourself a little time and the testosterone will balance out, too."

Blushing, Mutt scowled at his hands. "I still hate school."

"I know. Tell me this… what do you hate the least?"


Indy snorted with laughter. "Besides lunch."

Mutt leaned back in his seat. Shit... if the old man is tryin' so damn hard I might as well meet 'm halfway... "History. Mr. Gage is really good at making boring stuff interesting," the boy admitted after a moment.

Raising an eyebrow, Indy leaned back. "Yeah? Like what?"

Mutt shrugged. "Like… hell, I don't know… oh, yeah, like yesterday he was talkin' about the Vikings hitting Greenland before anybody else, ya know?" Indy nodded, not wanting to stop Mutt's flow of words. "An' he described life for the Vikings and then we did somethin' called role-playin'… " Mutt's eyes sparkled as he described how eight or ten of the boys in the class really got into the role of Viking savage, and Indy grinned inside at the wisdom and creativity of a teacher who managed to get bored teenagers so into their studies that they could recount the culture of the Viking explorers so accurately. Mutt's enthusiasm was contagious; Indy allowed the boy to share the experience and did little to stop the flow of words tumbling out of his usually taciturn son, getting caught up in the story as much as his boy.

In the kitchen, Marion leaned against the doorjamb, careful not to make a sound as she listened, a broad smile on her face as her son's animation and her husband's wise and infrequent questions kept the conversation going. She knew the road was not yet smooth, but perhaps, just maybe, they could have a couple of days of easier going? Still smiling, she gathered up the coffee pot, three coffee mugs and an apple pie, and headed back into the dining room to join her men.

- END -