Rating: PG - teen!chesters - Bobby POV - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Bobby POV - John volunteers his kids as slave labor to cover a debt and leaves the boys in Bobby's reluctant care.
Bobby had always appreciated the notion of the good old fashioned barter and trade system.
The exchange of goods for services had always seemed like an honest way to get things done. A few hours on a neighbor’s engine for a rare spare he needed was always better than trying to find his checkbook and suffer the long wait from the distribution hub down from Texas. Lending an old four cylinder junker to some guy in return for cleaning out the leaf choked rain gutters suited him just fine. Money wasn’t the end all and be all in the art of getting by. But it wasn’t as if he didn’t have use for the green stuff. Unfortunately it came up more than Bobby cared for despite all his efforts to stay firmly on the edge of the governmental monetary system of checks and balances. There was really no such thing as getting yourself completely off the grid these days. All you could do was try to linger on the fringe.
Tossing down an oily rag, he wiped his hand over his forehead and shined the flashlight down around the furnace intake one more time. The concrete floor of the corner of the basement was soaked with the acrid reek of oil. The warm burnt on scent of it coating the manifolds reminded him of an overheated transmission. It was busted all right. The blower and coil assembles were nice and blocked.
“Betcha it’s the fanbelt.” Dean said.
He hadn’t even heard the kid come down the stairs.
“It’s not the fanbelt.”
Over the years, he had actually gotten pretty good at hoarding currency and growing it in legitimate institutions. The cultivated amount got to be so embarrassingly useless to him that when asked, he doled it out to those that came to him in need. It was an easy thing to do when you had enough and weren’t hurting for anything in particular anyway. Besides, Bobby never lent money he thought he’d ever see again. His philosophy on handing cash to another was to kiss it goodbye and shed a tear in heartfelt incredulity if it ever actually returned his way. He hoped his causal dismissal of the gesture helped the unable feel less guilty. Awkwardness just made him feel awkward and all he wanted was his friends to have gas in the tank and food on the table. Or in the case of the men that usually came to him for aid, a few extra loads of munitions for that next misadventure down into the flip side. Bobby couldn’t think of many better ways to make sure money was being well spent. This war got no congressional backing or bake sales to see them through the tough times.
So when John of all people brought up the subject of a long since delinquent loan, Bobby wasn’t sure what to say. He knew even if John sold his car and everything inside it, it wouldn’t come close to what was owed. But old John was one of those types that wanted to make things right even if it wasn’t required. Unwilling to discuss decimal points, Bobby had offered a suggestion that would suit them both. There were quite a few crowded square acres out on his lot that needed plenty of back breaking toil.
John had agreed that slave labor for a solid month would more than even their deal.
In fact, John tossed in an extra week just in case anything in the house required anything else particularly strenuous. Bobby felt a little badly as John’s two boys solemnly watched the taillights as the black car turned down the end of the dusty wind of road. Although two unwanted roommates that weren’t collectively older than his plumbing created some territorial anxiety, he wasn’t real worried about it. There was very little chance of having to share his cherished hovel for anything like long term. He knew that in less than 48 hours these boys would be out a window and hitching a way back East until their father caught up with them again. But until the jailbreak there were enough pieces of junk rusting around here to last for a whole year’s worth of chores. He showed them a room to stow their stuff, told them to stay out of his beer and then he presented a nice long list to complete at their leisure.
He’d laughed a little at the elaborate care he’d taken to make the itinerary as horrible as possible. The feats written neatly on the notebook paper were ridiculous and tedious. Maybe he wouldn’t have to wait 48 hours. If these kids were smart they’d make a break for it before the clock struck midnight. As he settled down in bed that evening he listened a while to their low voices that carried down through the hall. Any moment he expected to hear the crack of the old window glued to the frame by too many coats of paint.
As he drifted off he wondered if they might leave a note. Maybe a guilty promise to return one day. A small token of words to assure that no debt was forgotten no matter how neglected. Something useless but utterly sincere. But the next morning hadn’t brought anything like that at all. Stumbling down the stairs with the break of dawn, Bobby was a little stunned to find coffee made and sounds of activity out front. The sun was barely up and the boys were already headed to the forest edge to start towing rotting wrecks out of the weeds and vines.
Bobby reconsidered his ailing furnace.
Straining his eyes in the light of the dim yellow bulb, he stepped back from the rumbling machine and eyed the condensate drain. Knocking a knuckle on the duct taped aluminum along the low ceiling, he considered the outtake vent that let out up into the insulation over the rise of wooden steps.
“We were livin’ in this real dump out in Idaho?” Dean was rolling up his sleeves. “Water boiler used to catch fire all the time.”
The to-do-list he had thought would take a lifetime for the boys to make a dent in, was completed by the end of seven days. Knowing the important list had been floating resolutely around in his head for a few decades, Bobby watched their tasks get completed with a mixture of unmitigated admiration and mild shame. After days kept passing with no signs of mutiny, Bobby had started to worry that he might be stuck with these guests after all. But when he watched them pull up in the pick up from another long day, he began to feel justified in relaxing with a beer out on his porch while they took turns under the hose. This was about all that circle of life crap wasn’t it? He was working hard on becoming an old man and it was his turn to hand over some of the responsibilities to the young and able. It was apparently the beauty of having offspring. In his case, it was the beauty of borrowing the offspring of others.
After another week went by and his property looked like someone actually appeared to reside it, he started wondering when they would figure out that they could just leave. When another few nights passed without any attempted escape, he started just making up shit for them to do. To his quiet surprise, they both went about accomplishing the strangest and most unpleasant tasks without much more than a question or two about where he kept the brushes and bleach.
Despite the warnings about the beer, that all started vanishing right along with all his neatly oiled shotguns. The firearms were always replaced but Bobby soon spotted the bulls eyed carnage of cans out by the nearby woods. Judging from the pile and the progressively poor aim that meandered into nearby innocent trees, the boys had been apparently drinking them as quickly as they could shoot at them.
After he had stopped Sam from alphabetizing the teetering haphazard stacks of his library, he decided that sending them on errands to the nearest town was a better way to break up their day. Although, Sam’s book marking system in all his various translations of the Greek Septuagint was a little more handy than he wanted to admit. Regardless of the new found efficiency popping up everywhere he looked, it had taken most of an afternoon to get his books back to how he liked them. There was a system there that had been created by instance and space. No amount of well intentioned organization was going improve what he’d spent years assembling into easy to find messy piles.
That was another thing.
All his damn piles were disappearing. Shelves were being filled, floors swept and throw rugs he vaguely remembered seeing in the 1970s were unearthed. When he could get into the kitchen without having to perform the familiar hurtle over some cardboard boxes he knew that somewhere down the line he had lost all control of his own domain. When he found his stovetop scrubbed free of carbonized remains of whatever he’d burnt there last, all he could do was gape in wonder. His sink was empty of dishes, his cabinets stacked with the glasses and mugs he usually stored in dishwater until they were needed again. Every time he happened upon another miraculously cleared space, he found all his protests dying when he was once again asked to sit down to what looked like dinner for the 24th night in a row.
“I can see what’s wrong from here.” Dean had started to become frustrated. “Why don’t you let me try and—“
“Leave it be.” Bobby heard the kid reluctantly follow him up the creaking steps. “I got someone comin’ out to look at it.”
The living room’s small television had been long since found somewhere in the depths of where it had been hibernating. It had been quickly fixed and hooked up out the window in an elaborate makeshift antennae that got almost five channels. Sam tore his concentration off the fuzzy football game when he heard them walk in.
“Someone’s coming?” Sam asked in slight but polite disbelief. “Coming uh, here?”
Bobby knew that these boys knew a man like him would probably go through a few winters with nothing but a book of matches rather than let some stranger crawl through the place. Especially for some cheap easy fix like an old furnace.
“Hey.” Dean’s voice lowered in something like concern. “Is that a new shirt, Bobby?”
Bobby glanced down and self consciously patted at the navy blue flannel that he’d owned for about as long as his last truck.
“No.” Sam said suspiciously. “It’s a clean shirt.”
“Yeah? So?” Bobby muttered. “A guy can put on a clean shirt now and then.”
The boys both studied him in a mutual appraising silence that made him uncomfortable. Bobby cleared his throat.
“Why-why don’t you take your brother out for one of those happy meals and I’ll see ya’ll tomorrow?”
“I’m almost twenty years old.” Dean irritably reminded him.
“Tomorrow?” Sam yawned and flipped into another version of his sprawl on the sagging old sofa. “What do ya mean tomorrow?”
The sudden roll of tires crunching on the gravel driveway drew all of their attention. Sam rolled over on the sofa and nudged back the curtain.
“A repair man?” Sam snorted skeptically. “For your furnace?”
His older brother leaned down beside him to get a good look at the parked van.
“It’s a chick repair man.” Dean smiled. “For your furnace.”
“Don’t you fellas have someplace to be?” Bobby glanced out the window nervously. “Like anywhere away from here?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Dean watched the ample woman with the large leather utility belt resting on the hourglass of her hips. He smacked Sam in the arm. “Come on.”
Sam sighed and dragged himself up off the comfortable deterioration of the couch.
“There’s another case of Bud out in the tool shed.” Bobby pushed them both urgently towards the rear door. “Just take it and go for a ride.”
“So what would that be…” Dean pondered as he was shoved down the back stairs. “’Bout a ten minute drive or are you lookin’ for a fifteen?”
Bobby slid all three deadbolts in place.
Straightening his ball cap, he maneuvered through the tidy maze of books and tried to pretend like he wasn’t waiting for a knock on the door. He listened eagerly to her steady gait across the dirt path and winced at the dual polite address of ‘ma'am’ as the boys causally passed on their way to the pick up.
Bobby hoped that twelve beers between two bored kids would take up plenty of time.
He also hoped the code of barter and trade was still applicable in all forms of business.