Trial Separation

Disclaimer: Not mine, don't sue me.

Wee – Chester

There comes a time in every young man's life when he must step away from his family – if only for the day.

0 – 0 – 0

During the week preceding the start of school John and Jeri engineered running into each other, the park was a favorite hang out for the boys, but the grocery store and Laundromat worked just as well.

After spending a little time with Jeri, John would take the boys back to the house for dinner. Invariably Jeri would be discussed: her unusual name, the way she played games with them and the weird food she always filled her shopping cart with.

"Daddy, d'juever notice all the green things in Jeri's shopping cart?"

"Veggies are good for you, Dean. In fact I think we should try more veggies. There's more than burgers and pizza to eat."

"I eat veggies. Carrots and corn, those are my kind of veggies. But burgers and pizza are the best 'cuz you can eat them with your hands. Can we have pizza for dinner?"

"Not tonight, Dean. Jeri asked us to come over for dinner. She said she was going to barbeque hot dogs, hamburgers and corn on the cob."

"Why'd she ask us over? You don't like her do you?"

"Jeri's a nice girl, she likes you guys and she's trying to make going to school easier for all of us. Besides she knows burgers are your favorite, you gotta like that Dean."

"I toldja I don't wanna go to school."

"I know, Dean, but remember going to school is your job now, and tomorrow is your first day on the job."

"But I don' wanna go," whining Dean turned from John and went to his room.

"Hey, Sammy, what about you, do you want to go see Jeri and have dinner?"

Sammy nodded his head vigorously, "Yep. Yep. Yep. I hungry."

"Dean, let's go! There's a burger with your name on it at Jeri's and Sammy's hungry."

Reluctantly Dean came out of his room, "Is there really a burger with my name on it?"

"Yep, Jeri promised."

After herding the boys into the car they made one stop for ice cream and headed for Jeri's house.

0 – 0 – 0

The picnic with Jeri was a success. Dean's name really was on a burger and they all ate until they were stuffed. Then John loaded his tired boys into the car and took them home.

Tomorrow would come way too soon for all the Winchester men.

0 – 0 – 0

Jeri pulled in to the drive next to the Impala and cut the engine. Taking a deep breath she grabbed her bag of distractions and headed towards the house.

John was pulling on Sammy's socks and shoes on while he was trapped in the highchair. Sammy was happily splashing his spoon in his bowl.

Dean was still in the bed room resolutely sitting in the middle of his bed with out a stitch on, shouting, "You can't make me go!"

"Dean, get out here now and have some Lucky Charms. You can dress yourself or not but you're going to school!" John bellowed from the kitchen where Sam had just upset his bowl of Lucky Charms.

"D'n sad. S'm sad."

"Dean's not sad, he's stubborn."

"No, D'n sad."

"Knock. Knock." Jeri called from the living room.

"Who there?" Sam chimed

"Jeri."

"Jeri, who?" John called as he wiped the spill from the floor.

"Jeri, who's come to save you." Rounding the corner and leaping into the kitchen like a superhero complete with leggings and an "SJ" on her chest. Stepping up the high chair she tickled Sammy till he was squealing with delight.

With an exaggerated wipe of his brow John asked, "Really? SJ?"

"Of course, Super Jeri, silly."

"You just might be my hero. Today is just like any other work day for me, but the boys aren't following any of the patterns we've set. I'm half expecting bloodshed and tears at any moment."

"Well I'm at least willing to try to help. Where should I start?"

"Why don't you finish up with Sammy and I'll get Dean moving. So far he's refused to put any clothes on or eat."

"Hey, Sammy what are you doing with Charms in your hair?"

Picking one of the errant Charms from his hair he stuffed his small fist into his mouth and chewed.

"How about we get you cleaned up?" Taking a clean dish rag out she mopped Sammy's face, head and hands. "Looks like we'll need to get another clean shirt out for you, this one is a mess," Jeri said chucking Sammy under his chin.

Giggling Sammy tried pulling the shirt off but got it stuck on his nose. "Help, Jeri."

Helping Sammy with his shirt she headed towards the bedroom to retrieve a clean one and stopped in her tracks as she heard Dean protesting.

"Daddy, we can't leave Sammy with her!"

"Dean, we have too. I have to go to work and you have to go to school. It's only for a little while."

"But what if he has to potty?"

"Jeri can take him potty."

"But she's a girl. She doesn't know how to pee like a boy."

Trying hard not to laugh but failing, "I'm sure she'll manage, son."

"But she'll make him sit down like a girl," Dean whined.

John sat on the edge of the bed with Dean standing between his knees as Dean stepped into his jeans. Once the jeans were secured John pulled him onto his lap put the new tennis shoes on and tied them with a double knot. "I'll make sure she knows about putting O's in the toilet."

Laughter came from the hall where Jeri had Sam tucked under one arm like a sack of potatoes. "Dean, I promise I won't make Sammy sit down to potty." Walking into the room Jeri went to the dresser and got a clean shirt for Sammy.

"Promise?" Dean face was comically screwed up with worry lines.

"Cross my heart," drawing an X over her heart Jeri solemnly promised.

"But what if he cries cuz I'm not here?"

"I have some things in my big bag to distract him."

"But what if you can't 'stract him?" he eyed Jeri skeptically her super hero get-up not instilling confidence in the five and a half year old.

"Then we'll come in here and get one of your shirts that he can hold onto until you get back."

"Why would you do that?"

Grabbing the clean shirt that had been laid out for Dean, Jeri handed it to him and answered while he pulled it over his head. "Dean, the shirt would smell like you and that can be very comforting. Sam could close his eyes and hold the shirt close and it would smell like you are here with him."

"I don't stink."

"No, Dean you don't stink, you smell like Dean. Sammy smells like Sammy and your Daddy smells like your Daddy."

"That's weird, do you go around smelling people?"

"No, Dean, I don't, but if you pick up a shirt that your Dad or Sammy has worn it will remind you of them."

"Daddy is that true?"

A pained look crossed John's face before he could compose an answer for his eldest son, "Jeri's right. After school today why don't you try it? That way you'll know for sure."

"Okay, but I still think it's weird to smell people's clothes."

Trying to delay his departure Dean asked, "But what if..?"

Kneeling in front of Dean and taking his hands in hers Jeri explained, "Dean, Sammy is going to miss you like crazy and when you come home he'll be so excited to see you. You can tell him about all the cool stuff you did at your first day of school.

"But, Daddy, I don't wanna go to school," Dean wailed, throwing himself back on the bed.

Pulling a trick out of her bag of distractions Jeri tried one out. "Dean, how about you make your bed and then you can show Sammy the school supplies I brought for you."

"What kind of supplies?" excitement creeping into his voice.

"Well, let's see there's a new box of crayons, a pencil and a big pink eraser. I'm sure there's other stuff in the bag but you need to make your bed before you can show Sammy."

"A big pink eraser, agh!"

"Hey, sport, how about you give Jeri a break. She probably likes big pink erasers and didn't know that you'd like a white or blue eraser better."

"What am I going to do with a pink eraser?" Dean smacked his palm against his forehead in an exaggerated duh sign.

Gruffly John answered, "First, you're going to say thank you to Jeri then you're going to go to school and use the supplies she was nice enough to bring you."

"Thank you, Jeri." Dean said with a roll of his expressive green eyes.

Reaching over to straighten the blanket Jeri said, "You're welcome, Dean. Now let's get you to school."

0 – 0 – 0

John took a reluctant Dean by the hand and led him to the car.

Dean dragged his feet the entire journey, looked back over his shoulder at a sobbing Sammy with tears quietly streaming down his cheeks.

As John walked around the front of the Impala he swiped at his own wet eyes.

Jeri, on the porch with a wailing Sammy felt tears welling as she watched the eldest Winchester dry his eyes and she dabbed with a tissue at Sammy's eyes and running nose.

Sammy wailed inconsolably for over an hour as he walked from room to room crying out his missing brother's name, "D'n...D'n, where D'n go?"

Sammy had been crying for almost two hours when he spit up his breakfast. Jeri put him in a warm bath of lavender and vanilla finally got him settled down enough to fall asleep, cuddling one of Dean's shirts and holding tight to his teddy bear.

Turning the radio on and setting the volume low, Jeri cleaned up the mess of Sammy's breakfast and straightened the kitchen. She then made herself a cup of tea and sank heavily into the ratty recliner in the living room, emotionally drained. With Sammy sleeping on Dean's bed she figured she'd have enough time to enjoy her cup of tea before she had to straighten up the mess of trying to distract a fifteen-month-old child.

The jangle of the phone broke into her consciousness as she jerked awake. Her tea cup fell to the floor and shattered before she realized that it had fallen.

Grabbing the phone she listened to the barely controlled voice of John Winchester.

"Jeri, could you go get Dean? The school called and said he hasn't stopped crying since he got there this morning. His teacher Mrs. McCorkle told me when I left that kids usually settle down after about five or ten minutes, but Dean hasn't stopped. I'm buried at work and my boss said if I leave I can just stay gone. Damn it, I need this freaking job, so can you please go get Dean for me?"

"John, I just got Sammy calmed down and he's sleeping now."

Interrupting Jeri, John continued, "Mrs. McCorkle was pretty adamant that Dean needed to be picked up. He's been lashing out at the other kids."

"Okay, John, I'll get Sammy up and I'll go get Dean."

"Thanks, Jeri, you really are my hero."

"Okay, I'm on my way now." Picking Sammy up and settling him against her shoulder Jeri headed for the school. His exhausted little body laying limp against her.

Jeri entered the class room with Sammy snuggled against her. Luckily he hadn't woken up on the drive over or when she jostled him getting him out of the car seat. But as soon as he heard his brother crying he immediately came awake squalling.

The cacophony of sound reverberated through the room, soon all activity in the class stopped and a chorus of crying children erupted.

Moving into the room toward Dean, Jeri's progress was interrupted.

"May I help you?" the bespectacled teaching assistant asked.

"I'm here to pick up Dean Winchester, his father asked me to pick him up."

"May I have your name, please?"

"I'm Jeri Jones."

Sammy took advantage, squirming out of Jeri's grasp and ran into Dean's outstretched arms. Both boys immediately stopped crying and clung to one another.

"I'm sorry we don't have a copy of the release form on file so I can't let you take Dean."

"Look, you called John; he couldn't get away from work so he called me to pick up his son. Obviously, Dean was distraught about being separated from his brother. They are both calm now and now you're telling me that I'm going to have to pry Sammy out of his brother's arms and leave Dean behind? You've got to be kidding me!"

Calmly the Teaching Assistant said, "I'm sorry but for the protection of the child we have to enforce the documentation policy. At this time you are not authorized to take Dean."

"Is it possible for you to call John and get a verbal authorization for today? You must have his number on file?"

"I'm sorry we can't release Dean to you without proper documentation."

"Ok. Dean, will you come here, please?" Jeri asked as she knelt down to his level to explain what was going on. "Dean, I need to take Sammy home. You'll have to stay here until your daddy can come and get you when school gets out. I'm sorry but they won't let me take you home now."

"You can't leave me here!" Dean's voice ratcheted up with panic as he held tight to his brother.

"I'm sorry, honey, the school won't let me take you home. Opening her arms to receive Sammy Jeri asked, "Please, Dean, would you give Sammy to me?"

"I told you, you can't take Sammy!" Dean yelled as he backed into a corner with his brother behind him. "You can't take Sammy!"

Dropping her expectant arms Jeri pleaded, "Dean, please let me take Sammy and I'll have your daddy come pick you up."

"No! No! No! You can't take Sammy"

"Mrs. McCorkle, could you please call John so we can get these boys some place where they feel safe?"

"I think it would be best if we call the police. Dean is obviously concerned about you taking his brother Sam."

"Please call John, he can straighten this out?" Jeri pleaded.

"Miss, if you'll wait outside. I think you have disrupted our class long enough!" Mrs. McCorkle led Jeri to the door and directed her to wait for the police officer.

"I'm sorry, but I won't leave Dean and Sammy here."

Turning to the Teaching Assistant, Mrs. McCorkle instructed, "Tina, please go to the office, call 911 and bring Mr. Murphy back."

"Yes, Mrs. McCorkle. I'll be right back. Will you be okay?"

"The children and I will be fine. Just go make the call please."

Sinking to the floor Jeri started to cry. John had trusted her to take care of his children. All he had asked was that she pick Dean up and take him home. A feeling of incompetence washed over her she couldn't even retrieve a child from school. Tears slowly coursed down her cheeks as she hopelessly waited for the police and/or John to take her away. And what felt worse was that she was still wearing her super hero costume.

Suddenly the chaos of the class room quieted, all eyes turned to the adult huddled on the floor with tears streaming down her face.

Sammy emerged from behind his brother, walked across the room and wiped the tears from Jeri's eyes saying, "Jeri sad. Don't cry. D'n, Jeri sad, don't cry."

0 – 0 – 0

John arrived about seven minutes after Tina left the room. He found his boys huddled around the young woman patting her back and making soothing sounds.

The police arrived shortly after John and tried to make sense of what had happened. Talking first to John, Dean and Sammy before talking to Mrs. McCorkle and lastly to Jeri.

After conferring with the office staff the missing paperwork that would have allowed Jeri to take Dean from the school had been found.

John was furious at the staff for causing the situation to spin out of control. Laying into Mrs. McCorkle he said, "Whenever Jeri comes to pick up my son I want you," stabbing at the air just inches from her face to make his point, "to move heaven and earth to make sure that Dean is ready to go and that Miss Jones will not be accosted by any of your staff."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Winchester, we didn't see the release documentation when we went to the office and called you. Then when Miss Jones tried to leave with your youngest son, Dean became nearly hysterical saying that she couldn't have Sammy. We thought the best recourse would be to contact police and prevent Miss Jones from kidnapping your children. Everything we did today was with the protection of both your childen in mind."

"So, what you did was put my family at risk of being separated by some government entity that knows nothing about me, my kids or the child care provider I selected to keep my children safe while I'm at work. My job may also have been put at risk because you couldn't find the paperwork that would have kept not only my sons but also all Dean's classmates from suffering from the drama today."

Reaching out to touch John's arm, Jeri came to the teacher's defense, "John, please? Mrs. McCorkle was just doing her job. She was trying to protect the boys from the true horror of a kidnapping. The boys are young, it won't take long before they both forget that this ever happened."

Turning to Mrs. McCorkle Jeri continued, "Mrs. McCorkle, I'm sorry for my part in all this. It was a rough morning for all of us. All I truly wanted was to get Dean home with Sammy where they could be together."

"Jeri, I need you to be able to take care of my boys and that includes picking them up from school. I don't want to live with the fear that now that the ball has been set in motion that the police or Children's Protective Services can swoop in and take my boys because they think you might be a flight risk."

"Sammy, Dean come on over here, it's time to go home with Miss Jeri. I've got to see if I still have a job." Hugging his boys tight for a long moment, John handed then over to Jeri, "You be good boys for Miss Jeri and I'll see you when I get home."

"I'm sorry this happened, John. Can you forgive me?"

"Jeri, there's nothing to forgive, you didn't do anything wrong. I'll see you later."

0 – 0 – 0

Later that evening, after the boys had been bathed and put to bed for the night, John sat in the recliner and called Jeri.

"Jeri, it's John Winchester."

"What's going on, John?"

"Tomorrow when you come over could you watch both boys 'til I get off work?"

"Sure, you know that won't be a problem."

"Just so you know, I'm thinking about taking Dean out of that school. Maybe the Winchesters just aren't ready to be separated. After all, the trial separation we endured today wasn't that successful."

"John, as long as you need my help I'll be there. Don't forget to call the school and tell them in the morning. I think maybe you're right, the boys aren't ready to be separated and I'm not sure you're ready for it either."

"You've got that right, Jerdiah. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, John."

Turning out the light John checked on the boys. Both Dean and Sammy were huddled together in Dean's bed, John tucked the covers snuggly around them and kissed each on the forehead.

He made his way to his lonely bed. Sinking to his knees next to his bed he looked toward the heavens and asked, "Mary, what do I do now?"

In a voice only his heart could hear Mary answered, "Love our boys and keep them safe."