Rating: PG - Gen
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Dean finds a little kid. In his car.
Normally, Dean wasn't all that uptight about wasting a little time.
You couldn't live on a highway and let yourself get too strung out about the stops and starts in your self proposed time table. Weather. Traffic. An old engine and all its parts. Sometimes his own body and all its inevitable and equally dramatic break downs.
But even outside of all the hitches and delays that the universe could hand you, there was something to be said for taking the long way. Small detours off the planned line of A to B were usually nothing that he couldn't handle. A few extra hours on the road. Pulling a little later or too early into some place they could find a bed and hopefully some beer. If you didn't have some kind of karmic deadline crashing down around you than why the hell not? No big deal. And besides, you never were quite sure what you'd find when you bent your own rules around. Good or bad, you couldn't judge the outcome too much or you'd spend all day doing just that.
But there were some trips that he couldn't just settle into as easily as others.
It was the tedious long hauls that took them far out of their way that really bugged him. If they were going to leave what he more or less considered the solar system of their usual freeways and network of the meandering interstates, he wanted it to be for a pretty good reason. It did a whole lot more than put him in a bad mood when they took a big chunk of time and trouble to get to the distant sign post on the map and find that there was nothing there. Like now.
A whole three days to arrive. A small fortune in gas wasted. And on top of it all, and to his dismay, not one single decent diner, bar or even a greasy drive through. They had been lucky that the town even had a place to sleep besides the seats of their own car. Four whole days had been spent to look for a whole lot of nothing. The solid lead that had drew them had fizzled into less than passing rumor and local half hearted speculation.
Talking to drunk gun toting rednecks that were all convinced that Dean and Sam were actually evangelical Mormons had gotten old pretty quick. And, all in all, Dean wasn't real happy unless he was working or moving. And it became quickly clear that he wasn't doing jack shit of either one of those things in this joint. By the fifth morning that leaked bleak and dreary through the dusty stiff curtains, he was already packed and ready to go. He was out the door to load the car before Sam could even get himself awake enough to find the shower.
With a few suggestions of how many minutes his brother had to make use of before being simply abandoned here in this fair hamlet, Dean stepped out into the brisk dawn air. Rummaging through his jacket for his keys, he pulled them out, more than ready to shove his stuff inside and get that engine going--
There was someone sitting in his car. A very short someone.
He walked up the driver's side slowly, noting that not only had all the windows been rolled down, but the entire contents of the glove compartment looked like it had exploded onto the passenger side. A collection of his Ids, a jumble of tapes, various registrations, and fake passports were scattered every where. There were also some other odds and ends that he had even forgotten had been in there. Like some never to be paid parking tickets and a rumpled pack of Lucky Strikes. With a small amount of heart acceleration, he saw that the rear view mirror was wrenched almost upside down and the sides were pointing in opposite directions.
Dean wasn't a woman and he'd never had had an underwear drawer but he imagined if he was and if he ever did, this was exactly what it would feel like if he found someone digging through it.
The little boy must have been at least five years old.
The shiny star of Dean's pilfered county sheriffs badge was pinned lopsided to the front of some muddy overalls. Wet dirt was smeared all over his seats. Small grimy hands had a good grip on the wheel even if he couldn't quite see over it. And the kid was making some pretty decent vrooom vroom noises as he stomped on the pedals. Wondering just how flooded the engine might be from the steady violent pumping he heard on the accelerator, Dean leaned down and rested his elbows on the open window.
"Nice ride ya got here."
The kid wildly steered from left to right.
Sam, having made record time, emerged with a yawn from the motel room. Hair damp and face unshaven, he slung his duffel over one shoulder as he made sure the door was shut and secured behind him. And he, like his older brother, stopped with a blink when he saw the situation.
"Um, whose kid?"
"Mine." Dean informed him dryly.
"Wow, I was in the bathroom for way longer than I thought."
"This is why I get pissed off when you forget to lock my doors!" Dean hissed.
"I did lock it!" His brother insisted defensively back. "I always do!"
"Oh yeah?" Dean pointed at the noisy evidence that was now apparently using the Impala's multiple and invisible laser gatling guns to blow up a soda machine that sat in front of it. "Then how did that get in there?"
"Osmosis?" Sam guessed.
Dean scrubbed at his face. He had no idea what that meant but it sounded pretty gross.
Sam leaned down into the window next to him. "Hey kid, where's your Mom?"
"Sleepin'." The boy chirped.
Dean exchanged a look with his brother. Traveling as much as they did they saw it every now and then. Children that sometimes wandered around unnoticed while their parents were elsewhere. Or like this kid implied, were probably sleeping off a night spent at a truck stop bar. They themselves had done a little wandering themselves back in the day truth be told.
Sam dropped his bag onto the sidewalk with a shrug.
"I'll go to the office. Ask if there is a room that checked in with a little boy."
Dean nodded and watched him go. He noted that the small single row of box like motel rooms didn't seem very occupied. There were maybe only a total of fifteen doors that sat along the white paint peeled stretch of the flat roofed structure. All those rooms and only two other cars were parked along with theirs on the gravel lot.
He turned his attention back to the kid that was now intently jerking the silent radio dials back and forth while shouting for back up. Intergalactic Space Back Up to be precise.
"Easy with that." He warned. "Without my tunes I'll be forced to talk to my brother all day."
"I gotta brother." The boy said offhandedly as he started brutally trying to yank the car out of park.
"Oh yeah?" Dean cringed when the kid turned his attention onto the cassette player. He was probably going to find a fucking P&J sandwich in there later. "Where's he?"
Mom and brother sleeping and this kid decides to take an early morning stroll. Some breaking and entering. Maybe some grand theft auto while he was at it.
"Maybe if you woke 'em up..." The boy suggested. "...I could go home?"
That sounded like a great idea to Dean.
"You got it pal." He turned back to the closed anonymous doors with badly stenciled numbers under their keyholes. "You know where at?"
Dean looked to see which direction the boy was indicating, ready to knock on the doors that had the cars sitting near by them.
But the kid wasn't pointing at the motel.
He was pointing across the two lane state route the dilapidated inn sat on the shoulder of. Dean straightened and looked out over the cracked asphalt and to the field beyond it.
The early morning sky was dim gray above, the horizon tinged with a sick yellow of the coming sun. The desolate stretch of space under it was filled with the sway of tall gold marsh grass and dotted with lone pine trees, moss growing up their gnarled trunks, and hanging from their branches. A breeze flowed lazily through the bending reeds, the sweet rot damp of swamp and humid green scent of stagnant still water blowing gently against Dean's face.
He looked for another parked car or some billboard that pointed to another rest stop type of establishment he had maybe somehow could have missed in this one horse town. But there wasn't anything else. He didn't see anything but an empty bog as far as the eye could see.
"Okay, I give up." Dean sighed. "Right over where--?"
He looked back at the car.
The passenger seat was as tidy as he'd left it the night before. The mirrors were all back as they should be. The windows were up. The steering wheel and the upholstery were spotlessly clean.
All the doors were locked.
The boy was gone.
Dean looked back over at the mire that sat across the road. Large, quiet, deep and untouched. Able to hide just about anything in its tangled labyrinth of towering weeds. Maybe a place you could get lost in too if you were left there for too long. For days. For weeks. Even years that turned into decades.
He thought of the boy's muddy overalls and dirty hands.
It was easy to tell his brother was mildly frustrated before Sam even opened his mouth to start talking. But Dean knew what he was about to say anyway.
"Well, the manager guy told me there's no check in's with any-- What are you doing?"
Dean was moving back towards the motel door his brother had dutifully locked and left behind them. "Checkin' back in." He held out his hand for the key.
"I thought you wanted to get the hell out of here?" Sam tossed it to him.
The door to the dank cramped room swung back open.
"Sure did." Dean murmured.
Sam was looking around and fighting his next yawn.
"Hey, where'd that kid go?"
Dean supposed they weren't the only ones that had to travel a long way to find what they were looking for. He sighed shortly at the return sight of the particularly musty beige flowered motel quilts.
"I think I might have a pretty good idea."
Some people, like them, were looking for what lay just outside the usual beaten path. Some, they had to find their way through the empty places to seek out some peace. Whether or not it was simply that nature sometimes created an intersection for both sides to collide in some quiet deserted parking lot before sunrise, well...
Dean would keep that question to mull over for the next endless quiet patch of road.