Also, so behind on comments it just isn't even funny anymore. I will catch up, I will, I will...
Rating: PG - teen!chesters - Gen
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Dean's oddly hyper and John wonders if he's been paying attention to enough PSAs.
"So what is it a curse or something?"
"It's not a curse." John mumbled as he pulled out another book from out underneath the stack.
A glance at his watch proved that time had not completely stopped. The sun had gone down but it still hadn’t even passed the one hour mark. He didn’t usually mind these long submersions into a case. In fact, he rarely if ever really even noticed at all. An entire night would go by before he realized that his lamplight was being joined by a sunrise. But not this time. Maybe it was the hint of warmth in the brisk spring night air or the fact that he was sitting down with his sons for the first time in almost two weeks.
He didn’t feel much like working. Dean on the otherhand, had punched in right on time and hadn't stopped talking since they'd found place to spread out their finds.
"Maybe it's like the evil eye, one of those jinxes, or a kibosh—“
“It’s not a kibosh.” For some reason the word made John hungry.
“I know, I know, it’s one of those uh, um, anathenema things.”
His oldest son didn’t often find the research portion of their work usually all this invigorating. He usually soldiered through the hours of silent book work and quiet aisles of the various dusty libraries as best he could. Which was fairly decent considering he was a seventeen year old who would be rather firing off one of many of their numerous firearms. Anywhere. Anytime. A hospital parking lot. Out the window on the freeway. Where ever duty called. His son wasn’t raised to be very discriminating.
“Malediction?” Dean hopefully suggested, tapping his pen like the repeat fire of an automatic machine gun against the table edge. “You think maybe?”
John gnawed at the end of his dulled pencil and looked at his kid sideways. It was always a little bit disconcerting, the gaps of time he was away and then back. He always felt the same but his children always revealed several various kinds of subtle differences, minute shifts in their speech, their looks, their ideas. If he wasn’t careful, he missed entire phases that were never to be seen again.
But Dean’s behavior at the moment didn’t seem like any of the shades of youth’s usual progression.
It just seemed odd.
Dean pointed at him, spitting out his pen cap with a smile of sure victory. “Commination!”
“A pernicious proscription?”
John didn’t even know what the hell the last one even meant. He studied his son’s eyes realizing that during the duration of the exchange that Dean hadn’t blinked once. His pupils were large and dilated in the meager light that came from the dim table lamps. His skin was a little paler than usual. Suddenly aware of the inspection, Dean immediately clammed up and was abruptly deeply involved in his research again.
John had seen the commercials. Read a few billboards. Even wondered about the actuality of it occurring within his own small sphere of his family. But not with Dean. If he figured one of his kids was going get strung out on anything it would be the other one. He glanced over at Sam who was sitting one table over bent down over his own pile. It wouldn’t be one of those fun kind of hardcore declines into party hell either. No spectacular car crashes or various forgotten weeks with various forgotten women. No, his youngest kid would end up like one of those tortured introverted users who were never sensational enough for some art student to want to make a movie about it. That was if that one ever got his nose up out from under a book and dared to even try something reckless just for the stupid thrill of it.
With a small sigh of relief, John knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime in the near by future. The expansive but conservative reach of Sam’s curiosity seemed to end at the safe ends of the spectrum.
His first born however was a different story.
He studied Dean again, slightly narrowing his eyes. No, there was no dark opium dens in this one’s future either. No garroting his arm for another spike of heroin. His eldest’s conventional imagination wasn’t that elaborate that he needed to fill in the world’s blanks that desperately. But, that didn’t make him immune from what else the planet of escapism had to offer the average teenager. Especially for a kid who made it fairly clear fairly often that he’d try just about anything twice.
John dragged a hand through tussled hair and sighed down at the blur of fine print that was waiting to be consumed. Noted. Categorized. Painfully picked apart for myth and fact and everything that came in between.
He wished his kids were as straightforward to decipher.
John was well aware of the random beer bottles he found in and around their living quarters after he’d been away. The occasional ground out cigarette in the ashtrays that usually sat unused. He had always had a vague worry that when his oldest eventually became aware of far more prevalent recreational substances that soon a couple of empties would become a fond happy memory. If Dean hadn’t gotten his hands on some of the green stuff already. John wasn’t completely blind to the age his son was coming into. The verge had come and past and some choices were Dean’s to make as far as his father was concerned.
But there were quite a few choices that still lay firmly within John’s jurisdiction.
He looked at Dean a little bit closer.
Contrary to John’s growing conviction, Dean’s eyes weren’t blood shot red. They were in fact, a little too bright and clear. John had had enough trips down the way with Mary Jane himself to know that if that was the case things would be a lot different. Dean would be more fascinated by his hand than the phrases in the books laid out on the table.
There were other sure fire signs however.
John leaned over and unceremoniously grabbed a fist full of Dean’s T-shirt. Ignoring the small sound of Dean’s protest, he dragged him over the mountain of texts between them. Getting in close, he got a good inhale just to make sure. Nope. Nothing. He just smelled like Dean. Dean plus soap. He’d made sure they’d all gotten cleaned up for this outing. Even the public domain had its limits and they’d been turned away at the doors before.
John dropped him back into his seat.
His son’s previous questioning expression had shifted gears into full on nervousness. John knew how the good stuff could make you paranoid but it still didn’t seem to quite fit the bill. And besides, did his kid really have the balls to toke up knowing he’d be sitting within striking distance of his dad in a library all night?
“W-What?” Dean was staring again.
“Nothin’.” John stared back at him.
Fingers picking at the leather bindings, Dean slowly attempted to go back to his book. Out of the corner of his eye, John could see the kid wasn’t doing much besides flipping pages as quickly as possible. It was soon accompanied with some mumbling to himself but John started hearing some kind of tune running under it. After re-reading the same sentence on the page for about the tenth time he looked back over at his son again.
“What is that?”
“Huh? What?” Dean was busy eating his pen cap again.
“Are you singing?”
“Oh, yeah,” Dean was bouncing his knee up and down like he needed to use the bathroom. “That commercial. For um, those English muffin things.”
John thought it sounded familiar. And off the air for almost a decade. He gritted his teeth as the annoyingly catchy tune started its own nice never ending loop in side his head. God damn it. He watched as Dean hunched down and worked his hands behind his neck, almost whimpering down into the heavy oak table and fidgeting with whatever was in reach.
His low whines finally exploded into a rushed outburst.
“I hafta to maybe, just get outta here for a while,” Dean’s voice sounded off. Restrained and tense. He slammed his large book closed with an impressive cloud of dust. “I think I’m gonna take a walk. Just down the street and back. Maybe to the motel or that old drive in I saw by the exit?”
Both of those destinations were over a couple miles away and there was a perfectly good working car sitting just yards from them. Full of gas and parallel parked along the library’s street.
John had just about had enough.
“Wait just a minute—“
Dean was up and gone, almost tripping over himself trying to get around the nearest aisle. He didn’t give a backwards glance or ask for the keys. John was left staring at the empty space his son had just previously occupied, his sense of order trying to urge him back into his now uninterrupted studies. But a nagging certainty had him up on his feet ready to follow.
“His jacket.” Sam said from behind a yawn and across the other table.
“Check his jacket.”
John felt his gut churn as he looked down at the jacket Dean had left hanging over the back of his chair.
His youngest didn’t rat out his brother very often. Wonderful. That meant it was bad. His kid had somehow gotten himself hooked on something. Or was starting to. What was it? Amphetamines? Cocaine? He had heard that crystal meth was all the rage amongst the kids out west these days. Kept you running your body on all cylinders for days on end without eating or the need to sleep.
There was only one end to that kind of ride.
With a deep breath, he stuck his hand in Dean’s denim jacket and found a wad of crumpled twenties. Giving them a quick count, he replaced them before he checked the other inside pocket. Besides a sheathed knife and a few fake IDs, he wasn’t sure what he was expecting but the soft worn crushed paper box wasn’t it. Confused, John pulled it out and grimly gripped it in his palm. He turned it over. He read the package label again and blinked.
“Xanthine alkaloid.” Sam flipped a yellowed page of his book.
John looked back down at the box and shook out its contents. There were foil packets of tiny white pills and most of them were missing. Xanthine alkaloid? Wasn’t that the stuff that made kids dance with those weirdly colored emergency chemical lights and love on everybody? John felt his fist tremble and close over the sharp edges of the foil packets. He’d be damned if Dean was going to start loving everybody…
Sam sighed shortly.
John looked at the small white pills again. Caffeine was what slowly brewed while you tried to open your eyes. Caffeine was what you burnt the roof of your mouth on the first thing in the morning. It was what you spilled all over yourself in the car. It was what stained your shirts and warmed your hands.
These things weren’t caffeine.
“What do you mean, like, some- some kind of cooked up caffeine crack?”
“Nope,” Sam blew up his overgrown bangs out of his eyes. “Just caffeine.”
Caffeine in a pill. Okay. “Where’d he get ‘em from?” John figured he might as well just ask. It seemed like Sam knew the entire deal anyway.
“The store.” Sam rolled his eyes.
John looked down at the small seemingly harmless little tablets in confusion.
“It’s faster.” Sam explained.
“Faster than what?” John honestly wanted to know.
“It’s kinda like,” Sam tilted his head and looked upwards, carefully framing the perfect analogy in his mind. “Taking about three pots of black coffee and injecting it right into your bloodstream. With a fire hose.”
John felt his eyebrows raise.
“You can buy this in a store?”
Sam absently nodded, distracted back into his work by a page sized lithograph of the city map as it was a century past. He untucked his pen from behind his ear and scribbled something down into his notes.
Firehose. Huh. John shook the box and reconsidered as he slowly sat back down. Maybe his kid was actually onto something.
“What about you?” He asked even though he already knew the answer. “You takin’ these too?”
“No.” Sam scowled at him and the accusation. “No way.”
“Oh yeah?” John eyed the impressive but eye straining heap of reading Sam was determined to go through in the course of one evening. “Why not?”
“Heard it stunts your growth.”
Taking a look down under the table at those long legs his youngest couldn’t seem to stop sprouting, he figured Sam didn’t have a whole lot to worry about in that department. John rubbed at his face and thought about how one day after one of these trips of his he’d come back once again just the way he’d left. But while he hadn’t changed one bit, he’d find that to look his youngest child in the eye he’d have to lift his own head a little.
Wouldn’t that be something.
“Speaking of a good stunting,” John stretched. “Do me a favor would ya Sammy and—“
Sam was already up checking his pocket for change for the machine.
“Plenty of milk and sugar right?”
John tried to get Sam good in the leg as he went by, but he somehow and somewhat gracefully avoided it. Watching him go, John pocketed the crumpled box with a small laugh to himself. He’d have a little talk about these pills whenever it was that Dean worked off his alkaloid high. There was no way in hell this was going to continue. If his boy was going to be hooked on caffeine it was going to be the way God intended. Steaming black and out of a styrofoam cup.
With another touch of unease he resettled himself into the uncomfortable wooden chair. He privately hoped Sam was right about the chemical effects of Dean’s stash. With a half smile, and a half twist on the gold ring on his finger, John turned his attention back onto the book on the table.
Because if a day came when he had to look up at both of his boys he wasn’t quite sure he’d be able to handle it.