Summary: Pre-series – Weechesters, Daddy John – Outsider POV – She had heard the rumors that had been floating around the teacher's lounge about how he was a drifter; how his wife was gone and it was just him and his boys bouncing from town to town as he searched for work.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: Just the usual language but not much this time.
A/N: This began as a drabble for the challenge word "line" but just kept going and going...
You stay for a while then you pick up and go. ~ David Bowie
She should be ashamed of herself.
She had a husband and kids and grandkids and even a great-grandkid on the way.
She was certainly old enough to know better; to keep hold of herself.
But she couldn't help it.
After all, she was married...not dead.
And he was hot.
The kind of hot that caught eyes and turned heads and made hearts flutter.
The kind of hot this small Texas town rarely saw.
The kind of hot that made this grandmother – an almost great-grandmother – wish she was still single and in her 30s.
Not that age seemed to matter.
Because Lord forgive her...but she was enjoying every second of her one-sided, silent affair with him.
His tall, lean body; that dark hair and those dark eyes and the barest hint of a beard; his rugged good looks making her feel like an infatuated teenager every time she saw him.
...like now as he entered the double doors of the elementary school and approached her desk.
Carolyn smiled, her eyes traveling upwards from his boots; watching as his long, jean-clad legs strode toward her; the denim hugging in just the right places as his muscular thighs rubbed back and forth...and back and forth...and sweet Jesus, she was going to need a cold shower if she didn't get a grip.
Feeling her cheeks flush, Carolyn hastily picked up a sheet of folded paper – some PTO flyer announcing the upcoming fall carnival – and began to fan herself as she stared up at him now leaning against the counter that framed her desk.
His hair was messy and slightly windblown; his beard was a little scruffier than normal; an olive green shirt was peeking out from beneath the collar of the dark blue button-up shirt he had layered; and why was that plain tan coat he always wore so damn sexy?
Carolyn sighed – hoping it only sounded dreamy to her own ears – and then swallowed her lust, almost choking from the sheer amount of it.
Because he was so damn hot.
"Hi, there," she greeted in the friendly, casual tone she had mastered during her 22 years of working as a secretary in the school's front office. "Sure is hot today. That Texas heat still stubbornly hanging on..."
He smiled in response, and Carolyn couldn't tell if it was because he knew she was lying about the reason she was fanning herself – because it wasn't that hot outside – or because he was just politely acknowledging her lame attempt at small talk humor.
Either way, it didn't matter.
Because he had smiled, and she had caught a glimpse of his dimples...and now she had forgotten how to speak.
He stared at her, arching an eyebrow at her expression; clearly amused. "You okay, sweetheart?" he asked her in that deep, smooth voice.
Carolyn swallowed and nodded, halting her fanning and blinking as though she had just gazed into the sun for too long; foolishly wondering if he called every woman "sweetheart", or if she was the only lucky one.
His smile widened as she remained speechless.
Carolyn smiled back shyly, realizing she was making a complete fool of herself.
"Sorry. Long day," she explained – because you're-so-hot-I-can't-even-function-around-you didn't seem like an appropriate response – and then laughed self-consciously before clearing her throat. "Here to pick up the boys?"
He nodded at her.
"A little early today..." Carolyn commented, handing him a clipboard; her finger hovering over the line where he was supposed to sign his name to check his children out of school. "Doctor appointments?"
He shook his head.
He shook his head again, "No. Something's just come up..." he replied vaguely.
Carolyn frowned, not liking the sound of that as she turned toward the intercom to page his kids to the front office; remembering the rumors that had been floating around the teacher's lounge about how he was a drifter; how his wife was gone and it was just him and his boys bouncing from town to town as he searched for work.
She resisted the urge to shake her head; wondering – not for the first time – about the specifics of their situation; wondering what kind of woman would ever leave the kind of man standing in front of her right now...or those precious boys, for that matter.
"Well..." Carolyn sighed, taking the clipboard back from him; her hand brushing his and then feeling a brief, tingling wave of desire at the calloused roughness of his skin against hers. "Hope this 'something' is nothing serious?"
He smiled – a polite warning against prying, one she had received before – and then shrugged; turning his back to her and focusing his attention down the hall in the direction from which he knew his boys would come.
Carolyn sighed, clasping her hands on her desk and feeling inexplicably worried; because what if this was it? What if she never saw John Winchester again after today? What if he was collecting his children early from school so he could move on to the next town? What if...
"Your boys sure are cute," she suddenly heard herself blurt; anxiety making her uncomfortable with the silence that had settled between them.
John half turned and glanced over his shoulder. "Thank you," he replied genuinely and held her gaze.
"Just speakin' the truth," Carolyn assured him; her nerves beginning to settle now that he was looking at her again. "Especially your youngest...he is just too precious for words! And your oldest...well, he looks just like you."
John smiled sadly and shook his head. "He looks more like his mom," he quietly corrected her.
And Carolyn could tell by his expression that he still missed his wife; that he still loved the mother of his children even now.
There was a beat of silence as she stared up at him from her desk.
"You're a good man," she told him.
Because she felt like he needed to hear it; because she had never had any doubts that he was; and because what other kind of man could he possibly be to still love a woman who had left him alone with two small kids to raise by himself?
John said nothing; only nodded his appreciation of her words and then turned back to look down the hall expectantly.
Carolyn sighed, missing his steady gaze even as she now stared at the back of his neck and wondered how it would feel to bury her fingers in the hair that brushed the collar of his coat.
She smiled. Because while she would always think of John Winchester as one of the hottest, sexiest men she had ever laid eyes on, she also knew there was more to him; knew that what she had said to him was true – he was a good man.
She had seen him interact with his children, and he loved those little boys; was the best father he knew how to be; was the best father he could be given their circumstances, and she respected him.
Carolyn sighed again, her thoughts scattered at the sound of approaching footsteps; a confident stride echoed by quick, hurried steps trying to match pace.
And even before she turned around to look, she knew what she would see; Sam and Dean coming up the hall hand-in-hand.
"Daddy!" the younger one – sweet, adorable six-year old Sammy – called with all of the enthusiasm of the child he was and then pointed. "Look, Dean! It's Daddy!"
Dean – the older one; the smart, watchful ten-year old – nodded. "I see him, Sammy," he assured in that amused, affectionate way he often did when talking to his brother.
John smiled fondly, watching as his boys continued to walk up the hall toward him.
Carolyn smiled, too; unable to stop herself.
Sam beamed, clearly excited to see his father in the middle of the day, and began walking faster than his brother; his short little legs moving double-time as his hand squirmed in Dean's grasp.
Dean sighed, knowing what Sam wanted, and released his hold on his little brother; rolling his eyes as the kid somehow wriggled out of his Superman backpack as he took off at a sprint down the hall.
Carolyn's smile widened as Dean scooped the backpack from the floor; always touched by how patient Dean was with Sam; how he always took care of the little guy and picked up after him without complaint.
The two brothers had only been at the school for about three weeks; but she had been lucky enough to witness such scenes several times, and it always warmed her heart.
What if these two little rays of sunshine were about to disappear from her life as well?
Carolyn sighed and shook her head; refusing to worry until she had something to worry about.
"Daddy!" Sam called again as he got closer.
John chuckled. "That's my name. Don't wear it out," he teased good-naturedly and then tousled Sam's floppy hair as the six-year old grinned up at him, showing his own pair of dimples...and further melting Carolyn's heart.
John's attention shifted to his oldest as Dean approached. "Got everything?" he asked, nodding meaningfully toward Sam's backpack held in Dean's hands and toward the one also strapped to Dean's back.
Dean returned the nod, seeming to understand John's underlying question; to sense the impending departure and knowing it was for good this time; that there would be no coming back for items forgotten or left behind.
Carolyn swallowed against the lump of emotion suddenly lodged in her throat; hoping she was incorrectly reading between the lines of this conversation between father and oldest son.
"Dean..." John prompted, glancing at Sam as the six-year old suddenly spun around and grabbed for his backpack in Dean's grasp.
"Yes, sir," Dean answered, already unzipping Sam's bag; knowing what his little brother wanted from within. "We've got everything."
John nodded his approval to his oldest. "That's my boy," he praised quietly and squeezed Dean's shoulder; clearly proud that Dean knew what to do without being told. "I can always count on you."
Dean nodded seriously. "Yes, sir," he confirmed, his green eyes shining as though he had just received the best compliment in the history of the world.
Carolyn smiled softly – even though she was saddened by the realization of just how much John depended on his ten-year old son – and then focused on Sam as the six-year old snatched something from his backpack and whirled back around to face John.
"Look!" Sam ordered with all the authority a kindergartener could muster; his arms angled up at John as he held a rectangle sheet of paper. "Look what I drawed!"
"What you drew," Dean corrected, equal parts patient and exasperated, and then zipped Sam's backpack.
Sam nodded, accepting Dean's correction but not repeating it; more interested in making sure John was indeed looking at what he held up.
"It's us," Sam proudly proclaimed as John took the paper from his chubby little hands.
John chuckled, tilting his head as he turned the paper around for a better view. "I see that."
Carolyn shifted in her seat, bracing her arms against her desk as she strained to see the drawing for herself without being too obvious.
"This is me," Sam explained, pointing to himself with one hand while standing on his tiptoes and pointing toward the smaller stickperson figure on the paper.
John smiled. "Looks just like you," he remarked seriously and then squatted, making it easier for his youngest to identify the other figures.
Sam grinned, immediately coming closer to his father; standing between John's legs with his back against John's chest as John held the paper in front of them.
"Who's this?" John asked interestedly, pointing at the medium-sized figure beside the Sam figure.
And Carolyn knew even before Sam answered...as she was sure John did, too.
"That's Dean," Sam replied and then smiled at his brother. "Look, Dean...that's you!"
John glanced at his oldest as Dean came forward, looking at the picture upside down.
"I know," Dean responded, returning Sam's smile. "You showed me already, remember?"
Sam nodded and then glanced at John while pointing at the biggest stickperson figure on the page. "Guess who this is, Daddy..."
"Well..." John squinted and tilted his head dramatically as though he was seriously considering his options of who it could be. "Anybody that good-looking has got to be me."
Amen, Carolyn thought even as her heart swelled in her chest; more attracted right now to how wonderful John was as a father than how good he looked.
Sam laughed – that high-pitched squeal of genuine delight that six-year olds make – and leaned back into John; affectionately wallowing the back of his head on John's shoulder. "Oh, Daddy...you're silly!"
John chuckled and then glanced at Dean and winked.
Dean smiled; enjoying his little brother's antics as much as John was. "Show him the best part, Sammy."
Carolyn shifted at her desk again, wanting to make sure she also saw whatever part was deemed "the best".
"The best part?" John repeated and then looked back at the picture. "I thought the best part was me?"
Sam shook his head. "No, the best part is Dean," he corrected matter-of-factly and then beamed at his brother.
Dean winked. "That's my boy."
Carolyn smiled; loving how Dean echoed to Sam what John had said to Dean just seconds earlier.
"Well..." John drawled, feigning insult by not being considered the best part of the picture.
Sam smiled. "Don't be mad, Daddy," he soothed and actually patted John's hand. "You're the second best part."
John arched an eyebrow.
And Carolyn decided this was one of the best days of her life, being allowed the privilege of watching this family interact in such a candid way.
"Fine, then..." John allowed. "What's the third best part?"
"This," Sam declared, pointing at a long black blob with two black circles spaced beneath it. "It's the car!"
Dean scowled instantly. "Sammy..." he warned. "What did I tell you about calling it that?"
Sam scrunched his nose. "Sorry, Dean," he apologized sincerely and then glanced back at John. "I mean it's the 'pala," he corrected himself and pointed again to the black blob.
John nodded approvingly. "Yep, it sure is," he affirmed. "I'd recognize her anywhere."
Carolyn smiled, amused that they spoke of the car – the Impala – as if it was indeed part of their family.
Sam grinned, still leaning against John. "I did good, Daddy?"
John nodded again, briefly wrapping his arms around Sam's small chest. "You sure did, kiddo," he confirmed.
Sam glanced at Dean, seeking final approval.
Dean rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "I already told you it kicked ass, Sammy."
"Dean..." John called warningly, looking at his oldest meaningfully as he stood and handed the picture back to Sam.
"Sorry," Dean apologized.
...though from his expression, Carolyn suspected he didn't really mean it, the little stinker.
"Well..." John sighed, glancing between his boys. "You two ready?"
Dean nodded, instantly serious again. "Yes, sir," he answered, motioning for Sam to turn around while taking the picture from the kid's hand and then slipping the Superman backpack straps over his little brother's shoulders.
Sam turned and reached for his picture. "Gimme."
Dean arched an eyebrow and held the picture higher.
Sam sighed. "Please, gimme."
Carolyn smiled; it was adorable how big brother was teaching little brother manners...even if big brother never seemed interested in using them himself.
"Good boy," Dean praised and handed the picture back to Sam before looking expectantly at John.
John nodded and then turned to face Carolyn. "Thank you for your help these past few weeks."
Carolyn shrugged graciously. "It was my pleasure," she assured him, not liking how much this sounded like goodbye.
John smiled – his dimples making another brief appearance – and was about to speak when Sam's arms suddenly pushed between him and Carolyn's desk.
"Look!" Sam told Carolyn, totally unaware that Carolyn had already seen.
Carolyn smiled. "Oh my goodness..." she gasped, placing her hand to her chest. "Did you draw that?"
Sam nodded. "Uh-huh. " He paused. "You like it?"
Carolyn returned the nod. "I sure do."
Sam grinned and lifted his arms higher. "You can have it."
"Oh..." Carolyn blinked, not expecting that response from the six-year old. "Well..."
John chuckled and took the picture from Sam's grasp. "Take it," he urged her. "Otherwise we'll never hear the end of it, and he'll never let us leave."
"Well, if that's all it takes to keep you here..." Carolyn responded, her tone joking even though a mixture of sadness and panic was building in her chest at the thought of them leaving; of her days no longer including John and Sam and Dean.
John smiled – knowing she knew – but said nothing as he continued to hold the picture between them.
"Take it," Sam told her and smiled.
Carolyn still hesitated, delaying the inevitable. "It's yours, sweetie."
Sam shrugged. "I can draw another one. I want you to have it."
Carolyn nodded. "Okay," she finally agreed and took the paper from John's hand; their fingers brushing as she smiled at Sam. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Sam responded politely and then glanced at Dean for approval.
Dean nodded and then glanced at John.
John held Carolyn's gaze before nudging his youngest. "Ready, Sammy?"
"Ready, Daddy," Sam answered, slipping his small hand into John's and then looking expectantly over his shoulder at Dean and holding his other hand out to his brother.
Dean smiled; tousling Sam's hair before grasping his little brother's outstretched hand.
Sam grinned; clearly as happy as a kid could possibly be sandwiched between the best and second best parts of his life.
Carolyn swallowed, fighting the sudden urge to cry. "See you tomorrow?" she asked hopefully, even though in her heart she already knew the answer.
John shook his head. "Probably not," he replied honestly.
Carolyn nodded; she had expected as much...and yet their departure from her life still hurt as though she had known them for years and not just for the three short weeks since they had rolled into town.
"It's okay," Sam assured her, looking concerned as he stood between his father and brother; his hands protectively grasped in theirs. "You have our picture."
Carolyn nodded. "I sure do, sweetie," she agreed, holding up the drawing; uncertain how much longer she could keep her tears at bay.
Sam smiled and then glanced up at John. "Daddy?"
John looked down at his youngest. "Yeah, Sammy?"
Sam hesitated shyly. "Can I pick the music this time?"
"What?" Dean gasped and then immediately scowled, directing his attention to John. "Dad! No way!"
John chuckled. "We'll see..." he stalled and smiled one last time at Carolyn before moving toward the school's exit; his boys naturally falling in step beside him.
"Bye!" Sam called over his shoulder, pulling his hand away from Dean to wave at Carolyn before reaching for his big brother again. "See you later, alligator..."
"After while, crocodile..." Carolyn returned...just like she had done every afternoon for the past three weeks when Sam had left school for the day.
Only now he was leaving for good – him and his father and his brother – and she could barely stand it.
Sam's chatter and John and Dean's answers became less clear the further the family moved away from Carolyn's desk, and then they were just gone; out the door and out of her life.
Carolyn sighed shakily and smiled through the tears she finally allowed to surface; glancing down at the construction paper lying on her desk.
The school's front office was strangely quiet and empty as Carolyn reached toward the crayon drawing; her fingers hovering over the stickperson figures of Sam, Dean, and John, and then moving to the black blob – the Impala.
Carolyn's watery smile widened as she remembered how Sam had labeled the best, second best, and third best parts of his life.
And while she was sure time would cause the Winchesters to eventually forget her, Carolyn still hoped they realized how much they had meant to her; that although she had not known them very long, she would always count them among the best parts of her life.