Rating: PG - teen!chesters - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: John observes Sam go hygienically downhill when left to his own devices during a school break.
Television had never been a huge staple in John’s life.
He had sometimes wondered if it had anything to do with the decade he had been born in or simply its utter lack of significance in the household in which he’d been raised. His father had been the kind of guy to religiously follow the evening news and that had been about it. The appeal of carefully ill wrought drama or methodical demonstrations on onion dissection had never caught his attention long enough to do much but lull him to sleep. Movies were for the big screen. Music was what you caught on the radio. Reality was what he tried to wake up to everyday. The rest was a whole lot of noise interspersed with optimistic 30 second pleads for your dollar.
That however didn’t stop his spawn from thoroughly requiring all the bland joys and prolonged boredoms basic cable had to offer.
He’d jacked the tubes on a few of the sets in their abodes on more than one occasion. It generally took his boys a confounding short amount of time to figure out how to get it working again but the bouts of peace were as idyllic as the feel of cold water on a sweaty face. One of the best things about settling down somewhere more long term was the ability to escape to another room away from the racket. Unfortunately, some residences were as about as compact as a motel with a few more walls to split it up. Looking up tiredly at the dark faux wood panels of his latest address, John fought off a strange surge of claustrophobia. He had privately thought his oldest son’s lame joke upon arrival summed up the cramped trailer perfectly. The place was so small, you’d might really have to go outside just to change your mind.
John had given up trying to use his tiny bedroom as any kind of work area and moved to the only table that could comfortably hold his spread of materials. There wasn’t much choice other than to surrender to the steady buzz of media that never shut off. Well, there was forever the option of simply hurling the thing right through a window. The vision of the machine shattering against the pavement in slow motion comforted him as he flipped another page of broadly inked text.
It was right about then that John inadvertently tuned in to what was relentlessly babbling in his peripherals. It was a calm soothing male voice using the precise right amount of subdued awe.
…when it is finally over, the female swims off, bleeding and exhausted…
He promptly turned completely around in his seat.
“What in the hell are you watching?”
John made sure the next few shots were of panoramic spans of ocean with stomach churning camera angles lurching up and down off the back of a scientific vessel. When he was satisfied that it wasn’t some channel for freaks that he’d accidentally pilfered along with the rest of their illegally wrought network, he settled back into his chair. Listening to a series of large yawns behind him, he pulled another leather tome open and speculated how Sam had come to be quite so exhausted.
He was almost positive that the kid hadn’t removed itself from that couch since the start of the latest school holiday.
That didn’t include the short forays when food appeared in Chinese take out cartons or occasional bathroom use. Sam’s pillow had made it out into the living room as the sofa became his new surrogate bed. John eyed the boxer shorts and crumpled T-shirt that hadn’t been replaced since the sweet sixteen had ditched his pants the previous Friday and promptly glued himself to the remote. It wasn’t if he had ever cared if his boys skipped a bath or three. Half the time it was done because there was no bath to be found. As long as their clothes didn’t start slithering out of their duffels on their own accord he declared the business of cleanliness a success. Nonetheless, it occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t very often that he was forced to witness the real time lapse of the apathetic descent. Especially over the course of an entire week.
“Don’t you have any homework to do?”
“How ‘bout cleaning up your room?”
John knew he was pushing it but his kids sometimes left him no choice but to come off sounding like an irrational crazy person that owned a deep seated fear of socks on floors. Those two usually kept on top of what they were told with enough efficiency that when he needed some leverage it was tough to dig up some truly valid complaints. Sam seemed to have noticed that his father was reaching the bottom of the barrel too. He rolled over on the sofa to give him a considering look.
“Bed’s made. Laundry’s done. Dog is walked.”
They were all currently living out of sleeping bags and the washing machine in the car port was busted beyond even his other son’s most determined efforts of resuscitation. With a sigh, John had to admit that he had pretty much walked right into that one. Although letting him know that the nonexistent dog had been taken care of was severely nudging the line. He could always trust Sammy to know how to cut past all attempts of maintaining the parental right of being unreasonable. Most days John could summon enough energy to get graciously pissed off but today he wasn’t feeling up to huge amounts of ineffective fury.
Gripping his pen a little harder, he met Sam’s even look and swallowed back the choice phrases he was tempted to launch right back. What exactly was it about the uphill communication with sixteen year olds that caused an overwhelming need to start acting like one too? But he couldn’t blame his son for flopping back over towards the television with a celebratory grin of extreme self satisfaction. It was hard to argue with a direct bullseye even if you wish it hadn’t struck.
He tried another tactic.
“Hell of a nice day today.”
John in reality had no clue if it was a glorious day to be alive or not. Considering he hadn’t left the house since roughly the same time his kid had begun slowly grafting to the furniture, the world could have gone into a global thermal nuclear war and he’d be none the wiser. He glanced at the curtains that had been tightly drawn to make the small den more into a cave like dwelling than it already was.
“You should go outside. Get some sunlight. Maybe go find a sprinkler and sit on it for a while—”
“No thanks.” Sam flipped the channel away from doomed harbor seals and onto a cheerful woman chopping a large raw slab of meat. “I’m fine.”
He rubbed his face and tapped his pen briefly on the open spiral notebook of his latest transcribing. He couldn’t actually smell Sam but he had noticed a fascinating inability to notice any true stink coming off his children ever since the days they spent crawling and drooling. They always just smelled like themselves in varying degrees of intensity. He figured it was some handy genetic encoding to make sure parents would never abandon their frequently fragrant young. But John’s safety aside, none of it meant that any passing innocent wouldn’t be affected by days worth of aggressive lounging in a sealed room with no ventilation.
“Pretty soon the neighbor’s are gonna call county about a dead body—“
“I’m on vacation.” Sam informed him offhandedly.
John was attempting to absorb the explanation for discarding all notions of hygiene when the distinct sound of a familiar engine made him turn his head. He looked down quickly in alarm at his watch.
It was too soon.
He scanned the mess all over the table in unease. The munitions excursion was supposed to take five days for a round trip all the way to Georgia and back. Even with the pedal to the metal Dean wasn’t due in town until tomorrow night… John stared down at the correct date blinking up at him on the digital display. It seemed it already was tomorrow night. So John had gone and misplaced an entire 24 hours once again. Time sure did fly when all you did was translate never ending pages of Old Norse and main line caffeine.
Quickly taking stock of appearances, he swiftly snapped his notebook closed over the books he had been working on and in one fluid motion swept it all aside into a cardboard box filled with many others on the floor. It was another easy gesture to kick it firmly under the table where it was more or less out of sight. Sitting back in a careful relaxed pose, he causally took up his mug. If he played it right his eldest wouldn’t even notice the coffee was piping cold.
The door finally swung open after all the locks had been dealt with. It turned out it wasn’t such a fantastical day out there after all. The sky was black with low clouds and the rain was coming down in heavy sheets. John distantly realized he had been aware of it drumming on the roof since that morning but hadn’t bothered to make the connection. Dean paused in the entryway, dripping wet from the short distance between the car and the trailer. He shook his head back and forth a few times before peeling off his soaked corduroy jacket and flinging it onto the floor with vague offense. John smiled a little into his cup when Sam suddenly sat up, realizing way too late who had arrived back home right on schedule.
Dean’s road weary expression shifted to a different brand of tired as soon as he spotted his family in the gloomy flicker of television light. His bewildered gaze hardened into realization, the beginnings of an accusation aimed right for his dad. Seeing the starts of a righteous speech being formed, John hoped to cut the boy off at his own pass. Throwing caution to the wind, he decided to go for a preemptive strike.
“You fill up the tires?” He half heartedly warned. “If she’s sagging on those rims you can forget about taking her on another long haul anytime soon.”
No dice. His kid was already honed in on the lack of breathable air and the clutter of paper that hadn’t been previously tacked all over the walls. As soon as his boy spotted the pile of take out in the trash the jig was completely up. Dean’s open hands came out in a hopeless gesture of disappointment. The accompanying short sigh of disbelief was chock full of frayed exasperation.
“Been out all day.” John assured him sincerely. “Sure is nice to finally take a load off.”
He watched Dean raise an eyebrow at his bone dry clothes and the neglected beginnings of a full on beard. After he saw the box under the table John might be lucky if he got away from it all without a respectful but stern discussion on ‘how a man his age needed to get some rest’. But fortune smiled. Dean’s attention was completely redirected by the display of his brother draped on the sofa and languishing like some turn of the century tuberculosis patient. Apparently recognizing the futility in trying to defend himself, Sam slumped dejectedly back into the pile of cushions and blankets.
“God damn.” Dean choked.
John guessed that helpful no stink gene didn’t work bilaterally amongst siblings. He did wonder however, just how much longer Dean was going to be able to grab his little brother by the back of the neck and shove him around like that. Sammy was still on the skinny side but four years apart and they were almost eye to eye. John watched the insubordinate glare rapidly disintegrate when Dean pointed grimly towards soap and hot water. Sam ignored his old man’s smile as he made the defeated march to the bathroom.
When the hectic blare of the television unexpectedly clicked off, the room was suddenly plunged into a blissful silence. With the now audible thrum of the rain and gentle rumble of thunder overhead John experienced a relief he hadn’t felt for days. Letting out an exhausted groan, Dean collapsed in the spot his brother had been busy indenting in his absence. John didn’t bother to tell him to get his soaked jeans and muddy boots off the fine third hand furnishings. Tired was tired and John already knew the quality of rest to be had through an old sleeping bag on plywood floors.
Trying to get up gracefully out of his chair was really the best sign of how long he’d been hunched over in the thing. His back cracked and his shoulders sang with tension all the way up into his neck. Stretching out his spine, he felt the protest in every limb that had been sequestered for hours of merciless employ. Leaning down to pick up one of the shed blankets up off the floor, he hoped it hadn’t been too contaminated to no longer be of any use.
“Have a good ride?”
His boy nodded with a small smile of his own.
John dropped the blanket over Dean’s drenched sprawl and patted him once on the thigh. Looked like the reign of decadent squalor hadn’t quite come to an end after all. He pretended not to notice his son’s drowsy frown when he pulled the cardboard box out from hiding.
At least this round would be in some peace and quiet.