Rating: PG - Gen - wee!Chesters
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
John didn't particularly like doing it but there were times when he had no choice.
There were two major reasons that made his jaw clench and the grip he had on the wheel tighten.
The first was the parking lot. It didn't seem to matter how vast or how gigantic the place was but someone would park directly next to him as close as possible. The black paint always had the tell tale chipping of a car door opening into it. The back fender inevitably had been scuffed or dented by some distracted shopper backing their SUV into his property. Occasionally a cheerful church flyer would sully his wind shield. In rare visits, small groups of teens would gravitate to his ride and whilst lost in their admiration would feel comfy enough to take a a seat on it. The parking lot held many perils. Flyaway metal shopping carts. Snow plows that buried your vehicle like they were tucking it goodnight. Small children with hands. Grown adults with four wheel drive.
All in all, it was best avoided when at all possible.
The second thing that set his nerves on edge were his kids.
They didn't go waltzing into places like this everyday, and he had for a long time thought both of his kids had some sensory imput issues. It wasn't quite a condition that wasn't more or less common to most kids, but his kids weren't like most of the rest. The sensory overload which was a Walmart Super Center did strange things to his boys. Things that made him worry after the engine was cut and their hushed hurried voices would suddenly cease in the back-seat.
But there was a sale on shotgun shells and frankly, even if these mega stores were ruining America, John could really use the break after dumping half of what he called a savings into fixing up the car's transmission and making sure his kids got three squares a day. John shook his head to himself while checking for his wallet. Even his best local supplier couldn't do as good as 50% off all Federal Premium Wing-Shok munitions, buffered and complete with copper plating. And while he was in the belly of the beast, he could always get some socks.
"We're in and then we get out, got it?" John said as sternly possible into the rearview mirror.
"Can we--" Sammy bravely ventured but was cut off by a punch to the arm by his ten year old brother.
John's eye's narrowed. Besides Dean's electing voluntarily to ride in back with Sammy on the trip there, and now the weighty loaded silence coming from the back seat, he knew something was afoot.
"You can wait in the car if you'd like--"
"No!" Dean said quickly, scrambling for his door handle. "In and out. Yes, sir!"
John would have felt a little better if his kid hadn't ended that promise with a smile.
It would have been redundant to recite the rules but John was a great believer in redundancy.
No eating any food to be found.
Stay away from the bathrooms.
And most importantly, do not lose track of time.
Dean listened carefully, doing a stand up job of not doing precisely what his 6 year old brother was doing. His small hand clamped into the lock like grip of his brother, Sammy strained as hard as he could to take off down the nearest tantalizing aisle.
"You meet me back here," John emphasized by pointing to the very spot under his boots. "Twenty minutes. Got it?"
There was a sure and slightly too happy nod.
John studied his oldest son for a moment before giving up. He started walking, ready to go hit the gun section when he remembered one more thing. He turned with a finger raised in warning.
"And you'd better watch your broth--"
They were already gone.
Twenty minutes had gone and left.
John checked his watch with the long hands of the store's wall clock and determined that he wasn't late nor early. The bags of half priced ammo were getting heavy and uncomfortable to hold. Standing next to the doors and catching the frigid gusts of the snowy parking lot was as pleasant as it could be. His car was undoubtedly collecting a nice coat of road salt and gray grimy slush. Sometimes some bastard would leave a nice message on it, like "Clean me!" on the filthy windshields. John hoped one day he'd catch someone in the act itself, just so he could--
The five minute tardy alarm went off on his marine issue watch.
Gritting his teeth, he was about to head to customer service and grab one of those overhead mics with a few choice words for his children when he saw... it. Staring down hard at the muddy footprints that cluttered the white linoleum, wet with clumps of melting snow and in as many variations as the fall of the snow flakes outside. Boots, shoes, sneakers, women, men... boys.
A familiar print stuck out to him like a flare in the dark. His gaze shifted to the direction it had gone, and he walked carefully through the muddy entryway so he wouldn't lose it. The trail went into a severe right into the store towards the crowded Pharmacy. John paused when the tracks did, at a bin of half priced month old Valentine's candy. He saw the track fade slightly with its passage and head towards the aisle that lead towards the automotive section.
Sammy had gone thatta way.
The hand gripping his bag made a fist.
The hunt was on.
He knew he had almost caught up with the six year old by the time he had hit aisle 17. Panting, he stopped a moment to catch his breath.
Positive that the little ... Positive that Sam had evaded him in the cleaning aisle by scaling the shelves and dropping down into the vacuum model displays, he was disappointed when all he found on the other side were some shiny red and pink chocolate heart candy wrappers. And more tracks.
Headed south to housewares.
John arrived there shortly, in a half jog, convinced that his advantage of speed would trump Sammy's advantage of using the place like a climbable maze of product displays and clothing racks as thick as a forest. John studied the faux made up beds to advertise the linens. He immediately spotted a Sammy sized lump in the farthest bed, tucked firmly under the leopard skin comforter.
"You put in a good game son, but not quite quick enou--"
There was nothing under the cat skin blanket but a few well placed pillows. John threw the blanket down in a mixture of angry frustration and begrudging pride.
He looked up in time to see the back of Sammy's Digimon jacket round the corner into women's wear. John took off towards him, sliding around the corner and almost falling, Sam was right there standing next to some lady and her cart--
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" She screamed.
John slowly put down her child.
"My mistake." He said with what he hoped was a smile.
The little boy was startled but quickly took the jacket off.
"He said I could have it!" The child protested.
John took the jacket he himself had found left at a bus stop and figured it had looked like it would fit his kid. And he knew his kid liked these stalked headed cartoon people that were on it. He wore it everywhere. But not today.
So Sammy had created a decoy.
All he wanted to do is go get some dinner and a black coffee and his kid was trying to win an all time ninja award. He felt a surge of unwanted pride again at the mastery of the six year old boy that had him stumbling around the tube sock capital of the world like he'd lost his mind. But just how much longer Sammy could avoid John's maneuvers under the bright fluorescent lights and friendly but beleaguered staff remained to be seen.
He heard a small laugh he knew all too well. Swinging around he caught Sammy standing not only several yards away, but he was wide open, no cover in sight.
Sammy's eyes got round when he saw his father had spotted him and without a second of hesitation, he took off in the opposite direction and sprinted right into a grove of dusty artificial plastic flowers. Cursing at the kid's ability to haul ass, John followed. But as he entered the dark aisle of overgrown fake flora and the plastic cinch of winding ivy he noticed one thing. There was one department left in the entire store that Sam hadn't lead him through on this oh so merry chase.
And that department was Electronics.
John passed the large bin of one for two DVDs and wondered briefly if Sammy was buried under a layer of 'Weekend at Bernie's III' and watching his passage. But what he had suspected seemed to have been correct.
There was Dean.
His eldest son was hard at work on some video game with what looked like some heavy firepower and skinless zombie dogs. In fact, his oldest son was so wrapped up in concentration on the game that he didn't even notice John walk right up behind him. He stood there for a while to watch the pixelated carnage his kid wrought on the super sized department screen. Crossing his arms, he wasn't sure which of his sons was more talented. The one that eluded him like a central American guerrilla rebel or the one that persuaded the guerrilla to do it so he could play in here as long as he wanted.
"Sammy get lost?"
The sound of his voice had the desired and much wanted effect of his oldest half jumping out of his skin and stumbling backwards into the game display. Several boxes of the game clattered to the floor.
"Was lookin' for 'em!" Dean managed to explain relatively quickly.
John also had to admire his children's gifts in the arts of total bullshit. After all, they had learned at the knee of a master.
"I said twenty minutes."
Dean had righted himself and had regained some of his composure now that his initial shock had faded.
"It's only been--"
"It's been an hour." John finished for him.
Dean had the decency to pretend to look like he felt guilty but John didn't miss the forlorn look he cast down at the video game control that now hung unused from the station.
"How long did you tell him to hide?"
"I didn't tell--"
"Two hours?" John watched his son's face for the inevitable tell. "Three?"
Dean's cheeks stained a little red with actual real guilt this time.
Tempted to leave Sammy out there to haunt Walmart shoppers and create tales for the employees that saw him appear and vanish beside bags of cat food and pyramid stacks of toilet paper, John knew that it couldn't be done.
"Well," John sighed. "Looks like you have two hours to kill."
Dean looked hopefully at the video game he had dropped.
"You can help me clean the car."
"We'll come back for him later."
John walked carefully behind Dean, waiting for him to try to make a break for it. He absently rubbed at his aching back and tried to ignore his tired feet. He had no fears about his youngest son's ability to elude capture. Let the Walmart security guards baby-sit for a few.
They could use the exercise.