Disclaimer: If I owned them there would-obviously-be a lot more flashback episodes.
A/N: You know, I really thought the next one would have adult Winchesters but, nope. Even John is only here for like, two seconds before whoosh! Zany zaps him off to somewhere to… kill something.
John opened the door of the little house they were currently renting and tried not to flinch. Not from the chill Virginia wind that rushed over him, but from the icy glare of the short, stout woman standing on the doorstep. He forced a polite smile.
"Hello, Ms. Julian. What can I do for you?"
Her glare-if it was even possible-got even icier.
"Mr. Winchester, I've come to ask you to do something about that young'un of yours."
He blinked. "Uhhh…"
"He's… well, he's out of control, simply put! Running wild all over the neighborhood, doing God knows what to all the poor people. Rearranging people's porch furniture! And yesterday, he did something to Mr. Hodgins' dog. The poor thing won't so much as poke its nose outside now."
A little shell-shocked from all these acts of delinquency thrown at him all at once, John simply nodded. Ms. Julian waited impatiently.
"I'll… I'll see that it's taken care of, Ms. Julian," he said at last.
"Well, thank you, Mr. Winchester," she said with a suddenly sweet smile, turning to leave his front step. He nodded again, feeling sort of like a puppet, just nodding, nodding, nodding, nodding-he closed the door.
Ms. Caroline Julian had been their next-door-neighbor for a month now, and in that time she had repeatedly expressed her dislike of "hoodlums," eyeing Dean as she did so as if expecting him to break out a knife and start picking his teeth with it. (This was, of course, a ridiculous assumption. Not the knife pulling part-Dean ALWAYS had a knife on him-but the teeth-picking part was just silly.)
John sighed as he looked down at the dark blond head of his fourteen year old and tried to figure out where he'd gone wrong. Giving up that train of thought as a lost cause (and, frankly, a depressing one), he said, "Dean, why do you antagonize Ms. Julian?"
Hazel eyes peered up at him through thick dark lashes. "I don't try to, Dad. She's just… easily antagonized, I guess."
Stifling the urge to sigh again, John said patiently, "Well, do you think you could try not to antagonize her?"
The boy shrugged. "Sure." His eyes asked permission to go back to Sammy and John's weary nod gave it. Dean scampered off and John slumped.
"Dang it," he muttered. "I forgot to ask him about Mr. Hodgins' dog."
Dean didn't really get Ms. Julian. She was a short, fiery, Cajun woman who didn't tolerate a lot of nonsense and didn't seem impressed by him at all. Every time he saw her, she was scowling at him, even though he usually hadn't done anything.
The really confusing part though, was that she loved Sammy.
Oh, it wasn't her adoration of his little brother that Dean found incomprehensible. After all, Sam had been taught by the best and inherited some great genes that supplied him with puppy dog eyes and dimples-which, when added to the general good looks of all the Winchester family, was almost overkill in Dean's opinion. Any woman over the age of twelve was practically obligated to fawn over him. No, the part that Dean didn't get was Ms. Julian's hatred of him. It wasn't like he'd done anything to provoke it.
The day the Winchester family moved into the house next door to Caroline Julian was dark and gloomy. Grey clouds covered the sun and filled the sky with an ominous veil of darkness.
If the Winchesters were at all superstitious, they might have taken this as a bad omen.
The house was a nice one, nicer than they usually got, in a nice residential neighborhood. John had actually gotten paid for his last job, and he'd managed to get a regular paycheck at a garage nearby. The boys could have a safe place to play outside, John could work on cars and read in his books, and everyone could relax a little.
Everyone except for Caroline Julian, that is.
She stood on her front porch watching the three Winchesters unload the Impala. Her hands were resting on her hips and she wore an expression of mild disapproval.
"Is that all you three own?" she called out as Dean passed by with a box of books. He paused and shot her a slightly defensive look.
"We travel a lot," he bit out, tone just a little bit sharper than it needed to be. "It's easier when there isn't a lot of stuff."
She glared at him. "Watch your tone, boy," she said, turning and going back into her house. Dean shrugged and continued on with his box.
In retrospect, that might have been where the problem started.
Every time they ran across each other after that, Ms. Julian and Dean would circle warily-he attempting to be polite, she not even bothering with that-and then go on their way. This was far removed from her interaction with Sammy, who she seemed to think was a veritable angel compared to Dean. Sammy got the smiles and the hair-petting (not that Dean wanted that part, particularly, but it was the principle of the thing). Sammy got invited over for cookies-invitations which were always turned down when Sam realized that Dean wasn't being invited. Sammy was nothing if not loyal.
It was mildly frustrating for the fourteen year old, to be immediately and constantly disliked by a woman who had no real reason to dislike him. She wasn't pretty, true, or young, or anything like the girls he'd usually tried to impress. But she was female, and his looks and his not-inconsiderable charm had always been in his favor with those odds. To come across a member of the female species he couldn't charm was rather annoying, and truthfully, a bit of a pride issue.
There wasn't a girl in the world who could resist Dean Winchester. Not even disapproving fifty-year-old neighbors. Never let it be said that Dean backed down from a challenge.
Dad would have them moving soon, probably before school started. That meant he had two months.
Plenty of time.
Sammy was in on it. He had to be, because Dean had to go out while Dad was at work, which meant Sam had to come along with Dean, which meant he wanted to know where they were going, and upon being supplied with this information, why they were going there and what they were doing there. And then once he knew that, he had to know why they were doing it, and so by the time they got to the corner CVS, Sam knew everything there was to know anyway, so he might as well be in on it.
Dean started with flowers. No real reason, except that it always worked on the girls at school, and Dean was a firm believer in using tried and true methods whenever possible. No need to exert more energy than necessary.
He bought Ms. Julian a nice little pot of flowers-because she didn't really seem like the bouquet type, and anyway, he didn't have that much money-and he and Sam trudged home. Then, Sam sat at the kitchen table and watched Dean write out a note to Ms. Julian and stick it in the pot.
"Wish me luck, Sammy," Dean said, opening the screen door and strolling across the yard, flowers in hand.
He didn't even make it to the porch.
Ms. Julian saw him coming and began hollering before he'd even reached her.
"Boy! What do yo' think you're doin', making off with those flowers? I've got half a mind to come out there and give yo' a piece of my mind!"
Deciding-correctly-that in this case discretion was the better part of valor, Dean beat a hasty retreat.
John gave the pot of flowers sitting in the middle of the kitchen table an odd look when he got home, but since Dean was scowling at the thing like it had personally offended him, he decided he didn't want to know.
Obviously, a different tactic was needed, and Dean got his chance when John requested-grudgingly, and with much grimacing-Ms. Julian's assistance with the looking after of his children whilst he was away for work for a couple of weeks. Apparently there was an auto-shop training thing that he had to attend. (Which, of course, really meant that some ghost somewhere was wreaking havoc in a junkyard and he had to go salt and burn it out, but somehow, John didn't think Ms. Julian would appreciate that version as much as Sam and Dean did when he told them.)
The first day Dad was gone, Ms. Julian opened her screen door and let out a piercing whistle, calling the Winchester boys inside for dinner. Sam, determined to assist his big brother in any way possible, became the poster child for bad table manners and attitude, whereas Dean acted the part of Miss Manners.
To their astonishment, Ms. Julian completely ignored Sam's horrific behavior, so different than how he usually acted. Instead, she was constantly eying Dean like she expected the silver to disappear into his sleeves any second.
Frustrated with this unfruitful strategy, the boys retreated once more to their own home, to sleep on the matter and hopefully come up with a plan to place Dean in Ms. Julian's good graces.
Even at ten, Sam was a little geek boy, so all of their attempts and theories were written in a list, chronologically arranged in the order they'd come up with them, with the various results written next to the list.
Flowers (not good)
Comparison to Sam (unsatisfactory)
Doing her yard work (jury's still out on this one)
Offering to cook (disastrous)
Set up a fake ghost in her house and then have Dean "kill" it (they both agreed that this would be a last ditch attempt, only undertaken in extreme desperation)
Four days into John's absence, Dean had hit-in his words-rock bottom, and was despairing of ever winning Ms. Julian's heart. He lay on the couch in the Winchester's living room, scowling at the ceiling and refusing to be placated by Sammy's attempts to cheer him up.
"Dean, we could-"
"No, Sammy. No, no, and no. Period."
Sam flopped down into an armchair and scowled at Dean. "You know what? If you're just going to sulk in here, I'm going over to Ms. Julian's to see if she has any cookies or something. You're not being any fun."
With that lovely little display of brotherly solidarity, Sam stood up and banged out of the house. Dean sat up to watch him go, saw him safely across the yard and knocking on Ms. Julian's door, then collapsed back onto the couch cushions.
"Maybe I'm going about this the wrong way," he muttered. Turning over on his side, he huffed out a sigh.
About five minutes later Sammy's scream brought him up off of the couch and running so fast for the house next door he thought his legs would tear off.
"Sammy! Sam, where are you?" he yelled, bursting through the door, and into the house. If Ms. Julian had a problem with it, well, he really didn't care. She shouldn't have let his baby brother get hurt.
"We're in here! Help!"
That didn't sound promising. He ran for the kitchen, already planning on how to calm his little brother and get him out from under what would most likely be Ms. Julian's well-intentioned, but ultimately unhelpful ministrations.
What he found was entirely unexpected.
Sam was kneeling on the floor beside an unconscious Ms. Caroline Julian. Dean's quick eyes darted around the room, made a note of where and how she was lying and-with an ease and skill that came from multiple experiences with field triage whilst hunting-deduced that she'd fallen down the kitchen steps.
Okay. This was okay. Not good, but at least Sammy wasn't hurt, and Dean could do this. He moved forward slowly, shushing his brother automatically.
"Shhh, it's okay, Sammy. Seriously, buddy, it'll be fine. She'll be alright."
He settled onto his knees next to Sam and reached a surprisingly steady hand out to check Ms. Julian's neck for a pulse. Upon finding one, he sat back on his heels and sighed, rubbing his hands over his face.
"Sam," he said slowly. "I need you to call 991."
"What?" Sam said, turning to him with a startled look on his face. They never dialed 991. Oh, they knew how to in theory of course, had even practiced. But for them, the only emergency number ever used was Dad's.
"She needs a hospital, Sammy," Dean explained patiently. "We have to call an ambulance." He rubbed Sam's head affectionately. "Go on, call."
Sam nodded and stood up, hurrying for the phone. Dean took a deep breath and returned his attention to Ms. Julian, closing his eyes briefly and praying that he'd be able to get them through this.
Dr. C. Thomas Howell barely glanced at the two young boys who were sitting quietly in the corner of the hospital room. Normally, they would not be allowed back here, but he'd been informed that this was a special case; their father was out of town for the next week, and Ms. Julian was responsible for them.
(Actually, their father being away had a lot less to do with them being allowed into the room than did the simple fact that Dean and Sam Winchester were little con-artists who knew exactly how to use their youth and their eyes to their advantage. The dimples appeared, the hazel eyes lit up, and the charm was out in full force. None of the nurses had anything even coming close to Ms. Julian's resilience. The boys had them wrapped around their little fingers within ten minutes.)
Ms. Julian was lying in her hospital bed, awake and in pain, and in a much worse mood than either of the boys had ever seen her. She'd never even been this ticked off at Dean.
Dr. Howell flipped open the file attached to his clipboard and smiled at the woman over the top. "Well, Caroline," he said jovially. "And how are we doing today?"
Dean and Sam glanced at each other and winced. Nobody, but nobody called Ms. Julian by her Christian name without express permission being granted. Even John called her Ms. Julian.
Sure enough, the Cajun lady glared at the doctor. "That's Ms. Julian to you, Doc-tor! An' how do you think I'm doin'? What kinda stupid question is that? I fell and busted up my hip, I've been kept in an emergency room for three hours, I've gotta get some supper fo' these boys, an' on top of alla that, now I've got you to deal with! I ain't doin' very well!"
Dr. Howell looked somewhat nonplussed. "Well… Ms. Julian," he said carefully. "I've got your X-rays here, and it looks like you'll need to stay off of that hip for a few days.
She glared at him again. "No, ya think? Is that all, Doc-tor?"
Dean exchanged small grins with Sam as the man blustered. Ms. Julian regarded him impatiently. Pulling his clipboard in front of himself like a shield, Dr. Howell informed her that there were no breaks in the hip, just severe bruising. It would be very painful to walk on for a few days, but then she should be good as new.
Ms. Julian nodded once, sharply, then began sitting up. She pushed the obligatory-and extremely ugly-green blanket off of her legs and then tried to swing her legs over the side of the bed. Instantly, she drew in a harsh breath and stopped. Dr. Howell attempted to use this as an opportunity to regain control of the situation.
"Now, see here, little lady," he said in that kindly but firm voice that always worked wonders on his female patients. "You can't be moving on your own like that."
Ms. Julian fixed him with one of her famous icy glares. Sam hid his face in his hands, sure that Dr. Howell was about to lose his head. Dean watched in fascination, despite being fairly certain of the same thing.
"You," the Cajun woman said fiercely, "Do not call me 'little lady.' I 'magine I've seen more years than your mama, an' don't think that jus' 'cause you've got some sort of fancy medical degree you can talk down to me! No way, bebe. Not this girl." She took a deep breath, steeling herself for the pain of moving again.
Without a thought, Dean slipped from his chair and over to her bedside. Carefully grasping her ankles, he helped her slide around until she was sitting up with her legs dangling over the side. With a glance, he sent Sam scurrying for the crutches the nurse had left in the corner. His little brother held the crutches in place as Dean helped Ms. Julian to her feet, ignoring her pained gasp while still making apologetic faces.
Throughout all of this, Ms. Julian said nothing. She just allowed Dean to direct her steps and help her get her feet under her, watching him the whole time.
Dr. Howell couldn't do much more than watch, dumbfounded, as the two boys who Ms. Julian was apparently responsible for expertly assisted her from the hospital room.
They didn't go home that night. Instead, Dean settled Sam and Ms. Julian into her living room and told Sammy to "keep an eye on her, I'll be right back." He hurried next door and gathered some clothes for himself and Sam. Ms. Julian would need them to stay with her for the next few days.
When he got back, Sam was explaining-in that adorable Child of Winchester way of his-exactly why Ms. Julian was not supposed to get up and make dinner-because Dean said so-and why this was not a problem-Dean was "real good at making stuff."
Surprisingly, this argument worked, and Dean was soon in the kitchen whipping up a simple meal of spaghetti. He set the table and then hurried to the living room to help Ms. Julian with her crutches. She stared at him as he did so, which he tried to ignore. He knew how old people got when they were hurt. Uncle Bobby was grouchy as all get out that time he got mauled by a wendigo.
The meal was unusually quiet, punctuated only by Sammy's irrepressible voice chattering on and on as the backdrop for Dean and Ms. Julian's staring contest. Dean actually saw the pleased surprise in her face as she tasted his cooking.
After the meal, Sammy jumped up and started clearing the table without being asked. Dean rose and silently arranged Ms. Julian's crutches for her. She just looked at him for a moment before pulling herself up.
She went to bed early, exhausted and in pain. Slowly, the boys helped her climb the stairs, a trip undertaken mostly in silence. Once she was settled in her own room, they swiftly scrambled to the guest room and plopped onto the double bed.
"She's okay, right?" Sam asked uncertainly. Dean nodded wearily.
"She's fine, Sammy. Just a little shook up is all."
"She was awfully quiet."
"Her hip's just hurtin' her is all. Tomorrow she'll be back to her old, grumpy self."
Reassured, Sam nestled down next to Dean and promptly fell asleep. Dean shook his head and did the same.
Morning was awkward. Ms. Julian had to be helped out of bed, then down the stairs, and then in to breakfast-cooked by Dean-and out to the living room. By the time the kitchen was cleaned up and Sammy was sitting contented by cartoons, Dean was exhausted.
He slumped into the living room and sat down on the floor next to his oblivious little brother, leaning back against the couch and trying to ignore Ms. Julian's presence in the armchair to his left.
This lasted for all of about thirty minutes, at which point Sammy's cartoons turned into news and weather forecasts. He turned to Dean with a complaint at the ready, which Dean immediately intercepted with, "I brought over your book bag. Go see what's in it."
Sammy grinned and jumped up, running out of the room and leaving Dean all alone with their neighbor.
She spoke abruptly. "You're very good with him."
For a moment, Dean wasn't sure she was talking to him. "What?" he said, ineloquently.
"Your brother," she replied with uncharacteristic patience. "You take good care of him."
Gratified by this recognition-even if it was of something he already knew-Dean gave a tentative smile. "Thank you?"
She smiled back, unexpectedly. "It was a compliment, chil'. No need to make something out of it." She turned her attention to the news and Dean sat back with a small smile still on his face.
The next few days passed slowly. Ms. Julian hobbled around on her crutches, assisted by both boys. Dean's repertoire of recipes grew as she taught him how to make gumbo and jambalaya. Sammy flitted about between the two of them as he always did, friendly and unassuming. As they seemed to have called a cease-fire, Dean had no problem with taking direction and even orders from Ms. Julian as she guided his hands in the art of Cajun cooking.
Soon enough, Dean became comfortable enough to begin slipping little compliments of his own into their conversation. Every time he did so, Ms. Julian smiled at him knowingly, but she didn't call him on it, nor did she tell him to stop. Every girl likes to be told she's beautiful. Even disapproving fifty-year old neighbors.
John's return found his sons on Ms. Julian's front porch playing cards with the lady herself. Biting back an astonished jaw-drop, he smoothly called out, "Hello, Ms. Julian. Hope the boys weren't too much trouble!"
"On the contrary, Mr. Winchester," she called back. "Your sons are delightful."
"They are?" he blurted, incredulous. Dean and Sam rolled their eyes simultaneously. Ms. Julian just laughed. "Yes, indeed," she said with a grin. "Angels, both of them."
"Both of them?" he croaked.
Gleefully, she chuckled. "Oh yes. When I fell and busted up my hip… why, I don't know what I would've done without these two sweethearts to help me."
Solicitously-and because it was the only thing he could do to keep his brain working after hearing his boys referred to as sweet-he asked, "Are you alright?"
"Oh, yes, just fine, thanks to Dean. That's a mighty fine boy you've got there, John."
"Thank you," he said, somewhat dazed. She beamed. "Well, it's been lovely having you boys stay here, but since my hip is mostly healed an' your daddy's here, you'd best be gettin' on home."
The boys stood as one. Sam offered Ms. Julian a slightly sticky smile and got a hug for his efforts. He bounded down the steps into his father's arms.
Ms. Julian regarded the fourteen year old before her with sharp eyes. "Don't think I don't know what you've been doin'," she said with a small smirk.
Dean raised an eyebrow. "What I've been doin'?" he asked, matching her drawl. She grinned at him.
"Butterin' me up, askin' me fo' my gumbo recipe like y'all are a bunch o' housewives with time t' make it. I know what yo' doin'."
He smirked back at her. "Don' know what you're talkin' 'bout, Miz Julian," he said, the Cajun accent coming out perfectly.
She stuck out her hand. "I'm glad we got to know each other better," she said softly. Really smirking now, he took her hand.
"Well," he drawled. "If y' ever bust up you're hip again, yo' know where to find me."
Ms. Julian burst out laughing. "Get off my porch, chil', an' greet yo' daddy. He's gon' think yo' don't love him no more."
Dean laughed with her, surprising her by bending over and giving her a kiss on the cheek. She was blushing as he pulled away.
"Go on with y' now," she shooed. He grinned and was off, down the porch steps and to his father's side.
John waved at Ms. Julian and turned to go on to his own house with Sammy in tow. Dean was walking backwards in front of him, filling him in on all he had missed. It was only as they reached their own porch and were opening the door that Ms. Julian thought of something.
"Dean! What on earth did you do to Mr. Hodgins' dog?"
A peal of mischievous laughter was the only answer she received as its owner disappeared inside the house next door.
A/N: Okay, so this is one of those that took me so long to write I was actually afraid it wouldn't be finished until next school year. Seriously. I've been gone for freakin' forever. Sorry, guys.
Additional, No-Longer-A-Spoiler Disclaimer: I do not own Caroline Julian. She belongs to the show Bones, and to the people who created it. Mr. Hodgins also hails from Bones. Dr. C. Thomas Howell does not belong to me either; he was created for the Criminal Minds episode, "Nameless, Faceless."