Title: Paradise City
Summary: When Sam and Dean are called to Sweet Valley by their dad’s old army buddy, they quickly discover that things are not as hunky-dory as they look in this adorable suburb of LA. And also that “hunky-dory” is now part of their vocabulary, which is oddly clean.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: Set very early on in Supernatural, pre-Angels, because even though I’ve watched a lot of Supernatural, I really can’t remember what happens in it. The original hook, two hot boys go kill monsters, is the best. It’s set after the season 2 finale. Sam has died, been brought back, and Dean made his pact with a demon.
As far as Sweet Valley goes, Mr. Henkel is a character in Sweet Valley Twins #23: Claim to Fame. The story forced an army vet with PTSD to reconcile with his child because THEY’RE FAMILY, regardless of the trauma on both sides. The utter disregard for everyone’s emotional wellbeing, and the fact it was trumped literally “because blood” always bothered me.
Thanks to: JC / ogwnostalgia, who saw that I was floundering and pushed me into writing what I wanted, instead of what I thought I had to.
1,585 / 50,000 words. 3% done!
If there was one thing that creeped out Dean Winchester, it was suburbia. It was completely alien to him. As a kid who had grown up in one flea-pit motel after another, and grown into a man who moved from one flea-pit motel to another, the idea of houses with white picket fences, a dog, a regular newspaper subscription and not knowing what was really going on in the world threw him.
And this was coming from a man who was facing an eternity in Hell in eleven months’ time.
“Twins,” he muttered as he pulled the Impala to a stop outside of their destination. “Never a good sign.”
Sam cast a look out of the window in the direction Dean had nodded. Two identical girls with long blonde hair stood in the driveway of the house next door, deep in discussion. “Thought you liked twins.”
He couldn’t really argue with that. “Only in certain circumstances. Adult twins, fun times; kid twins, nightmare fuel.”
Sam rolled his eyes and got out of the car. Dean signed and followed suit.
“Hello!” said one of the creepy twins.
Dean wanted to glare, or at least ignore her, but found himself giving a friendly wave.
“Are you going to see Mr. Henkel?” the same twin asked.
See, this is what sucked about suburbia. Everyone was best friends and thought it was perfectly reasonable to talk to strangers about their plans. Didn’t these kids know about stranger danger? While he and Sammy might well be the safest strangers on the planet, most parents wouldn’t like their kids talking to two guys with a trunk full of weapons.
“It’s good that he’s getting visitors,” the creepy twin continued in a prissy voice. “I think he’s very lonely.”
Dean gave his brother a look that said, You deal with this. I’m out. And while Sam made small talk, Dean strode over to the front door.
“Now Henkel, he’s a real kook, but he knows his stuff. Just don’t let him get riled up,” Bobby had said. The call had come to one of Bobby’s many landlines. Old army buddy of their dad’s wanted help with something. The call quality was pretty terrible and Bobby hadn’t been at all sure what they were supposed to check out, but the guy was solid.
Dean rapped on the door. It was painted a nice friendly green and there were potted plants either side of it. He shuddered. Suburbia.
There was a lengthy pause between the knock and the door being answered, and when it swung open, he saw why. Howard Henkel was in a wheelchair and he had a heavy photo album on his lap. He peered out of the door cautiously, and flinched at what he saw. He rolled backwards with the words, “Come on in. Quickly now.”
Sam was politely extricating himself from the conversation with the twins. The prissy one looked interested, the other was helplessly giggling and staring at Sam in hopeless adoration.
“Come along!” Henkel barked out. When Sam didn’t immediately move, he added a sharp, “Now, Winchester!”
Pleasant dude, Dean thought as he followed Henkel into the house. It was a neat split-level house, which made literally no sense when you remembered that the only person who lived there was in a wheelchair.
Sam joined them in the house and let the door shut behind him.
“You shouldn’t talk to those… girls,” Henkel muttered. He nodded towards the kitchen. “If you want something to eat or drink, you get it yourself. I can’t reach.”
Dean exchanged a confused glance with his brother. Why on earth would someone live in a house they could barely use. Kook was understating it. Dean was planning on having strong words with Bobby about his descriptors.
“I’m good,” said Dean, while Sam uttered much the same sentiments.
Henkel looked disappointed. “Well, you can make me a coffee while you’re up. Use those working legs of yours.”
Dean could almost see Sam’s brain desperately trying to work out a polite way of asking why Henkel lived in a house that wasn’t set up for wheelchair access. As Sam rummaged through the top cupboards, Dean wondered the same. And why would Henkel use cupboards he couldn’t reach? Did he have a helper who cruelly put things away out of reach? Or was he just the special brand of stubborn that refused to make accommodations for his disability?
Sam ended up making three cups of strong coffee, and when they were all settled around the kitchen table – after Dean had removed an extra chair, so the wheelchair could fit – they were ready to get down to business.
“You shouldn’t talk to those girls,” Henkel said again.
It occurred to Dean to make a very poor taste joke, but instead of speaking, he took a sip of coffee.
“I don’t know if they’re real,” Henkel said, glaring into his coffee.
“Not real?” Sam asked, with a glance in Dean’s direction.
Henkel picked up the picture album on his lap and pulled out a picture from the first page. He passed it to Sam. Sam looked at it and passed it on. Nothing special, Henkel and a boy who looked a lot like him. Same dark eyes. Dean looked at Henkel questioningly.
“My boy. Lives with his aunt and uncle, but he’s my boy. Birth certificate, baby pictures, the full nine yards,” he gestured to the album on the kitchen table. “Dead wife too. Pictures, papers.” He flipped through the pages, and even on a brief glance, Dean could see it charted a very normal story, man and woman and their baby, then man and his toddler, then man and kid, separate, but with the same dark eyes.
Dean didn’t know what that had to do with anything. Maybe this is what normal people did. They didn’t just brag about their rugrats, they provided proof.
“Mr. Henkel,” Sam began, using his very understanding voice. “Maybe…”
Mr. Henkel gave him a look of deep frustration. “I don’t have a son. I never had a wife. I’m gay. THAT THING IS NOT MY SON!”
There was a moment of silence, before Sam found his voice. “You don’t have a son?”
“I have never even kissed a woman, much less fathered a child with one. That thing is not my son. It’s not even real.” Henkel gestured to the pictures and papers in the album in front of him. “I don’t care how much evidence there is otherwise – that is not my child.”
This did not sound like a monster problem. This sounded a delusion problem. If he didn’t want his son, then that was how it was, but what kind of entity would go to the hassle of creating a paper trail that went back over a decade?
There was nothing here that made sense. Henkel lived in a house designed for an able-bodied man, while in a wheelchair, hating his son because he didn’t believe he was real. This couldn’t be solved with salt and iron, this needed medication and therapy.
Not that Dean was going to say that. The touchy-feely stuff was strictly Sam’s domain.
“Mr. Henkel, what can we do to help?” Sam asked. “This doesn’t…” he glanced at Dean and shrugged. “… this doesn’t seem like our usual case.”
Henkel sighed and gave Sam a bitter smile. “There’s nothing you can do. You’re going to have to play along too. Once you’re in Sweet Valley, you can’t get out.”
“Mr. Henkel, we can drive you somewhere else right now,” Dean offered. That was something he could do. Has car, will drive. Will even put a wheelchair in the trunk.
“But you can’t,” Henkel replied. “You can’t leave. Just try. None of us are getting out of here. And after awhile, you’ll start to notice that you’re saying things you wouldn’t say. You’re using phrases that aren’t yours. And maybe you’ll find yourself married, being very normal. And you’ll be happy about it.” He looked up from the album, his eyes dark and glittering, “But inside, you’ll be screaming.”