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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

The Cost of Living

April 22nd, 2006 (09:15 pm)

feeling: lonely

Summary: The day Dean was born, John put 100 dollars into a savings account.

A/N: This is based on John's comments to Sam in Dead Man's Blood about setting up college funds which he subsequently spent on ammunition. This struck me as rather symbolic or at least rather indicative. After all, parents set up college funds for their children's futures, just like John did, but then John traded their college funds, their futures, for ammunition. It struck me as very in character and tremendously sad. So this plot bunny came out of nowhere and made me write this. Much thanks to geminigrl11 for the speedy and well thought out beta. She will forever be the Dean to my Sam :) And, yes, I know I deserve endless ribbing for writing a piece sympathetic to John. I understand the man, but I don't think I'll ever forgive him. If anyone needs to know why, I'll be more than happy to elaborate....

Rating: PG, gen

Disclaimer: I own none of this stuff though I think I spend more time thinking about this fandom than most other stuff in my life.


The Cost of Living

The day Dean was born, John put 100 dollars into a savings account. It wasn't much, but it was the best he could do, and somehow he knew that it was enough for a start. He promised himself that he would add to it each month, if not 100 dollars, as much as he could scrounge up. He'd give up cable for it, even give up that extra six pack he always wanted to buy at the end of the week.

He'd give it all up, if he could, just so his son could have a chance a future. When his son grew up, maybe he could be anything he wanted to be, maybe he could go to college, maybe he could be someone. He could have all the opportunities that John had never had; John would be sure of that.


The day Sam was born, John started another 100 dollars into a savings account, promising his second son no less than the first. He had a better job now, one that paid a little more, so he didn't think the 200 dollars for his sons would be too much of a strain.

Mary worried about it sometimes, asked if they could afford the mortgage on the house, if they could do it all on just his mechanic's salary.

John didn't tell her that he asked for overtime and he gave up poker night for the boys, for their future. Because it didn't seem like a sacrifice. He would give anything for his sons, anything at all.


The night Mary died, John fell apart. He was sitting across the street, watching all that he had worked for go up in flames. He wanted to cry, but didn't know how, so he just sat there holding his sons, hoping that maybe something could be salvaged. But as he held his sons close, smelled the smoke in their hair, he realized he had salvaged the most important things.

The stuff didn't matter; he had his sons.

That made him fight, but it didn't make grieving any easier.

In the weeks to come, he struggled to stay alive. He struggled to keep his sons safe and healthy when all he wanted to do was drink and retreat from a world that had taken away something more precious to him than his own life.  The boys anchored him in a way he hadn't asked for, in a way that was sometimes almost too much to handle.  But they were his link to her, his Mary still made flesh.  He pushed on for their sakes.

In the months to come, he discovered the truth, he understood darkness, and it was everywhere. It stalked him at work. It stalked his sons while they slept. Nowhere was safe enough. None of them were safe enough.

He didn't care if it was just paranoia. A little less pragmatism, a little more paranoia, his sons might still have a mother.

He quit his job. The insurance payment was enough to live on for now, but it wasn't enough to keep investing into the boys' college funds. He would have to stop adding to them for awhile, just for awhile, until he got them all back on their feet, until he could get them all safe again.


The money ran out and the hunt was on. His first hunts were sloppy and uncertain, and his mentors worried about him on the road with the boys. The equipment was getting costly, and the steady use of motels and restaurants had stripped his meager savings dry.

He remembered looking at his bank accounts, wondering where the money would come from for the next meal, for the next motel.

Then he saw the two savings accounts, the one for Dean, the one for Sam, and couldn't stop himself from considering it. They were still so young, they still had so much time to grow up. They wouldn't touch those accounts for years, and they would never know the difference of a few hundred bucks.

But he remembered the look on Mary's face when he told her about Dean's account, how surprised, how proud, how hopeful she had been. "Our son will have everything."   

He left the accounts in tact.

Instead he managed to get a temporary job as a janitor. It was dirty work, but it paid well, and that was all the mattered. The college money sat, untouched, accumulating interest. Someday, when this was over, when vengeance was his, the boys could still use that, they could still be something more than what he was.


There was no time for working, not when he was researching all the time and training the boys. Dean was in school and caring for Sam during the day was a full time job that he nearly couldn't handle.

His part time work didn't pay enough, not consistently enough, and the motel manager was going to kick them out. The soles were falling off of Dean's shoes, and all of Sam's shirts were riddled with holes.

He remembered the savings accounts and the small wealth of money he had stashed away there. He had promised himself he would never touch them, that they belonged to the boys. But what good was a college fund if they didn't have clothes to wear, food to eat, and a place to stay?

Just this once, he promised as he made the withdrawal. Sam was standing by his side, his small hand grasping at his pant leg, and John felt himself flush as the ATM delivered the money obediently to his hand.

It felt dirty when he held it, even dirtier when he looked down into Sam's youthful face which held nothing but trust.

It still felt dirty when he paid the motel manager, but when he saw Dean's eyes light up at the new tennis shoes from Payless and when he saw how well Sam's new shirt fit him, he could displace the doubt for the temporary gain.


He needed silver bullets. The thing they were hunting was immune to anything else, and they were out of time. It would attack again tonight and someone else would die, and John couldn't let that happen.

The fake credit card had worked at the motel, but the man who made the bullets in town dealt only in cash.

John was out of cash, out of time, out of options.

This time when he made the withdrawal, he didn't hesitate as much. They just needed to get through another hunt, another monster, another night, together, alive, and safe. There would still be enough for the boys to have something later, to have something when all of this was over.


But it wasn't over. There were more hunts and fewer leads. There were more weapons and never enough ammo.

He stopped thinking about what he was using when he withdrew from the bank accounts, stopped keeping track of how much he owed his sons. The hunt was all the mattered, vengeance was paramount. Each day, each month, each year that went by moved him further from Mary and closer to revenge.

The boys could understand that. They surely understood it. He could see them nodded and saying Yes, sir like the good little soldiers he needed them to be.

He would pay them back someday, he promised, someday.


John couldn't remember when he used the last of the money. He could only remember standing at the ATM, waiting expectantly, and seeing the message that the account was overdrawn.

It was gone. All of it.

He stared it for a minute, then tried again, just to be sure.

Every last cent.

He couldn't remember where it all went, how it had all disappeared. 


Both the boys were in school now, and they were both becoming better hunters than John could have anticipated. Dean was growing into his attitude and Sam was growing into his intellect. They both seemed so big, so sure, so able, and he suddenly wondered when they had grown up.

Dean could dig a grave faster than any of them. Sam could shoot more cans off a fence post. Neither of them flinched when they saw a demon. Neither of them got queasy at the sight of human remains.

The soldier in John was proud of them, prouder than he knew was possible, because his little army was almost indestructible.

But somewhere inside of him, he heard Mary's voice, felt the weight of the promise he made to each of the boys the day they were born.

He tried to remember when all of it had happened, when they had become desensitized to evil, when they had lost the innocence of childhood.


When John told Sam about his college fund, he knew it was too little, too late, but he could see it touched Sam.

Sam, true to form, asked him where it went.

John thought back to the first withdrawal, then the second, and the rest that blurred together.

"Spent it on ammo."

They both laughed, a short, relieved laugh that shattered the growing tension between them.

There was understanding in Sam's face, and forgiveness, which John was grateful for, but wasn't sure he deserved.

Because he didn't know how to explain how sorry he was that he traded his sons' futures for something so transient, something so dark, something that could only kill and not bring life.

He had to swallow the laugh back hard, and realized that he only laughed because he still didn't know how to cry.

He wondered for a moment if he would give it back if he could, if he would change the way this all played out. Maybe there was a way for the boys to hunt and still have futures, maybe there had been a balance he had never seen, never understood.

Maybe. But John would never be sure.



Posted by: Amy (whisp)
Posted at: April 26th, 2006 03:22 am (UTC)

Excellent as always, faye. As much as I don't agree with John's decisions, it's always interesting to read about people's interpretations of his character and the decisions that he's made. I love how in this fic, the decision to spend the money wasn't immediate. That John tried as hard as he could to keep that money for the boys and make sure they had a choice in their futures about going to college. :)

And I have to say that your icon confused the heck out of me at first until I figured out where the pic was from.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 29th, 2006 01:39 am (UTC)

Thanks! I'm glad you found it believable! I try hard to be balanced when it comes to John, though really, I can't stand much of what the man does or has done.

And, yeah, the icon is a bit hard to figure out--too small. But for some reason I couldn't resist. I loved that scene--that look of fear on Sam's face--and just had to use it :)

Posted by: phantomas (phantomas)
Posted at: May 3rd, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)

here via papawinchester

Favourite sentences:
In the months to come, he discovered the truth, he understood darkness, and it was everywhere. It stalked him at work. It stalked his sons while they slept. Nowhere was safe enough. None of them were safe enough.

Because he didn't know how to explain how sorry he was that he traded his sons' futures for something so transient, something so dark, something that could only kill and not bring life.

I really like how you portrayed John's choices, how time and money slipped away from him and through his hands; and I love his final realisation of how dark is the present/future he's bought for them with that money.

Thank you :)

Posted by: lightning for marrow (spikeyboots)
Posted at: May 4th, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)

This is so sad. The way John's need to destroy for the boys eventually outweighs his need to protect them.

The fic itself has a lovely slow pace, but it's never boring - on the contrary I think it's quite fantastic. But so sad. (I'm a sucker for some good kick-in-the-guts angst.)

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