Title: Problems of Engagement
Rating: PG - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Boredom sucks.
Sam had first discovered he could fit an entire roll of lifesavers in his mouth sometime during his freshman year in college.
He sometimes thought the memory of when the act was first accomplished should be something he ought to remember fondly. But he didn’t have much recollection other than it becoming a steady practice in the back row of a dark lecture hall. Not many of his fellow classmates were impressed with the maneuver until they realized that the actual real magic was not choking to death while you achieved maximum capacity. If you attained the dexterity and patience of a Zen master you could even line them all in a row across your teeth like braces.
History & Function of Business Statistics 101
Despite the intriguing subject, he had managed to stay awake long enough to pass the class with a low A. The feel of petty success wasn’t like the sensation of squeezing off the first round into something that screamed instead of a paper target. The triumph didn’t even come close to the first time he’d pushed the pedal right up against the floor in the middle of the night while his family slept. The meaningless grade and the lifesaver trick were both part of a gradual progression of skills that had come about purely due to boredom. It had also cultivated a fantastical sugar addiction that he couldn’t shake for almost another full semester.
It was odd to think about a school in passing in the same vinyl seat he used to dream of its impending arrival.
Since the car was going to be sitting in park for the duration of the day, his brother didn’t put up much of an argument about putting the bench seat back. Sam loudly yawned and stretched, noting once again that even with all the extra space his legs still ran out of room real quick. He would have gotten out and walked around but they weren’t there to take in the middling small town sights.
“Jesus, would you look at that?”
Sam shifted his attention in the direction of his brother’s bewildered disgust.
“What an asshole.” Dean muttered.
There was a guy rummaging through one of the industrial sized street garbage cans on the corner. Besides the unquestionable homelessness of the man and a probable odor that his brother couldn’t possibly detect from here, Sam wasn’t quite sure what had raised Dean’s ire. There had never been a large resentment towards the economically challenged considering they were practically one car door away from the same state. The corner in question was also on the very opposite side of the street that they were supposed diligently surveying.
Sam looked back over at the three story stack of bricks and sighed. They had been sitting out here since the sun came up so they could stare at an apartment building.
However, the person they were supposedly waiting alertly for might have come and gone twice already. The individual could have come right on outside and done some naked aerobics to some 80s pop and Sam would have missed it. He attempted to redirect his concentration on the double doors that hadn’t opened in over three hours. When more of the mind-numbing same appeared extremely likely to continue, his vision blurred pleasantly as he let his eyes glaze over.
With August officially declared dead, the days had lost the muggy humidity and the lingering swelter. The bright sunny days in between the end of summer and the coming winter clung as long as possible to all the green left in the branches. But dawn had started bleakly on the cold side. The teasing sight of the blue above and the fresh vibrant trees painted a much more temperate picture than the bluster of brisk wind outside the sealed car windows.
Any lingering warmth from the vents had completely dissipated but Sam knew what his brother’s response would be for a request to turn the engine just for a little heat. He carefully began to peel the wrapper off the lifesavers so it would uncoil like a spring.
Dean cursed again under his breath.
Sam raised an eyebrow at the cement mixer that had rolled to a stop at the intersection’s traffic light. Stopping for a long yellow was usually grounds for an irate comment from the driver’s seat but it wasn’t as if they were behind the guy. Sam placed the round candy in a row down his thigh in order of their places on the spectrum of light.
The family business had always had its share of monotony. The long quiet spans between the messy thrills had forced him to find ways to fill in the spaces as best he could.
As a child he’d gotten pathological over his textual distractions whenever there was a lull in the never ending weapon maintenance. His brother had long ago honed the art of crafting about any caliber of bullet into a keychain ornament. Their father had usually poured all his downtime into more work. There had been a lot of parental clichés flung around about the insidious nature of idleness in which Sam had privately wholeheartedly agreed. Unoccupied minds were indeed the devil’s playground.
His demons just seemed to be composed mostly of high fructose corn syrup.
Leaning against the window, he studied the colorful array of candy in his hand and deliberated on which one should be first. The flavor obviously didn’t matter but it was part of the time killing process. Setting the yellow ones aside he wondered if there was any other junk food on the planet that had ‘pineapple’ in its regular rotation of normal.
“Do you see that?” Dean demanded. “Are you seeing this?”
Sam’s gaze returned to observe what heinous acts the homeless guy could be perpetrating now. But the man was no where in sight. He searched the corner until he saw a woman sitting on a bench reading a magazine. Sam experienced a momentary fizzle of displeasure as her perfectly recyclable water bottle went into the trash, but otherwise he didn’t get it. He drowsily scanned the rest of the pavement until he found a kid hanging around a comic book store window. All she was doing was aggressively loitering and flipping a skateboard up in a steady rhythm against the glass. Sam was a great believer in annoyance but that was a little long distance even for him.
Dean’s frustration peaked when Sam still wasn’t joining in on the righteous outrage. There was a moment of confusion when Sam realized his brother wasn’t concerned with what was going down in front of the comic book store. In fact, nothing across the street seemed to be the object of aggravation at all.
“Not them!” Dean dismissed the entire downtown area and angrily gestured right next to the car. “That guy.”
It took a moment for Sam to register that his brother was indicating the patch of grass beside an old oak tree they were parked under. With the redirection of his focus, he saw the nearly deserted sidewalks actually did have some activity occurring if not on a smaller more frantic level. The tiny section of lawn had a lone chipmunk that was industriously digging a hole in the clumped turf. But like the homeless man, magazine woman and skate boarding kid, Sam could not identify what exactly the thing was doing wrong besides making sure it didn’t starve when the snow started to fall.
The rodent with racing stripes paused in its exhausting labors and scurried away only to reappear with another nut to bury in a spot near by.
“Okay.” Sam conceded with a shrug. “Start her up and we’ll run the bastard over—“
It was right then that a much larger and fatter gray squirrel emerged from behind the gnarled tree. Flicking its bushy tail, it tentatively wandered over to the freshly packed dirt. Using both paws, it casually started digging up what the chipmunk had so recently carefully stashed away. Sitting back on its ample haunches, it studied the easy prize for a moment before deciding to go ahead and chow down.
Sam vaguely felt a sense of injustice flare up somewhere in the depths of his languor.
“Freakin’ jackass.” Dean growled. “He’s been doin’ that since 8:30.”
Sam graciously held out the most valued and precious of the rainbow in his palm. For his brother anyway. Personally, Sam had always had a deeper appreciation for orange and the publicly scorned green. Not for the first time, he wondered if his chemically enhanced flavor preferences had been shaped by a childhood of being left with what his older brother had deemed inferior. Dean shoved the cherry lifesaver in his mouth and promptly ruined the whole experience by cracking it between his teeth.
“Why don’t you just go to sleep?” Sam suggested.
Dean tiredly regarded him with hope laced suspicion. Leaving the burden of tedium to someone else while you indulged in some leisure had been a long cherished Winchester justification for a knee to the balls.
“Yup.” Sam pushed two lifesavers under his upper lip like an impotent walrus. “You got 15 minutes.”
Dean pulled his hands into his sleeves before crossing his arms and slumping down comfortably in his seat. He looked distrustfully back at Sam one more time before settling into a cozy blackout.
“What’s in 15 minutes?”
Sam tried to tear his gaze off the unfortunate chipmunk as it paused over an empty hole with as much puzzlement a simple member of rodentia could muster. He frowned at the sight of the squirrel waiting contentedly on a branch a few feet above.