Title: A Claw-Filled Wal-Mart Adventure
Rating: PG (a few bad words)
Pre-series, what I hope is a humor story. The Winchesters try to leave Wal-Mart. It doesn't go as planned.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own the Winchesters, no matter how much I may want to. I do not own Wal-Mart either. I know nothing about Wal-Mart, well besides my own experience of shopping there which has never involved claw-machines and did zero research so excuse any errors. I mean no offense to Wal-Mart or their employees. It's all in good fun.
John pushed the shopping cart full of diapers, baby wipes, beef jerky, and his babbling one-year-old son to the electronic exit doors. Only 10 more feet and this reluctant trip to Wal-Mart would finally be over. But, naturally, there was a little old woman with her walker moving at a snail's pace in front of them.
Looking down at Dean, who was holding onto the side of the shopping cart just as he'd been told, he jerked his head to the side, "Hard left."
Dean compiled, following the cart as John maneuvered it around the old woman and increased their pace.
Sammy was buckled into the shopping cart, banging on the handle bar and carrying on a detailed conversation with the buttons on John's shirt in a language only Dean understood.
As they finally reached the exit, a beeping sound went off and an overweight "asset protection" agent scurried in front of John's cart and held up his hand.
"Sir, I'm going to need you to step over here," the guard instructed.
John rolled his eyes, annoyed at the recent addition of security sensors to every Wal-Mart in the continental U.S. He continued on his way, the guard almost running to keep up.
"Sir," he repeated, "I have to inspect your purchases."
Sammy was crying now, apparently the buttons had offended him, and John could smell his diaper from here. He did not have time for this.
"Listen, buddy," he said, stopping and turning to the man, "there were seven other people that walked through the doors the same time I did and they weren't towing around two kids. You think I'm going to shoplift in front of them? Go annoy someone else."
At the sudden red appearance of the guard's face, John figured he hadn't said the right thing. Not that he cared.
"Sir, why are you being so defensive?" the guard asked.
"Because my kid's crying and needs his diaper changed and you think that I stole freakin' baby wipes."
Their exchange had garnered attention and there was a second security guard walking towards them purposively.
"Oh, for God's sake," John muttered as the man approached, "You Ponch then?"
"Sir, we're going to need you to step over here," Ponch stated.
"You two take the same 'How to deal with shoplifters' class or something?"
"Sir . . ." they both stated in unison and John had enough. He considered just continuing on their way, but that would probably warranted a police visit and the last thing he needed was for the excellent Wal-Mart employees to figure out he'd paid with a fake credit card.
"Fine, inspect my damn purchases while my kid suffers from chronic diaper rash," John stated as he steered the cart offer to the side of the entryway where a variety of arcade games were located.
He situated Sammy and Dean off to the side, near the games, and bent down to Dean's level. "Stay by the cart and watch your brother, Dean," John told him.
Dean, who'd been tickling Sammy's feet to get him to stop crying, stopped and nodded, "Yes sir," he said quietly, his voice much too serious for a five-year-old.
"Good man," John said as he ruffled his hair and stood up, taking the four bags from the cart and carrying them over a couple of feet to the guards, where he could still watch the boys.
Their inspection was thorough and annoying. Yes, he had his receipt. No, he had not stolen anything. Is a full body cavity search really necessary?
After almost five minutes, John got really pissed, "This is ridiculous. Clearly, I haven't stolen anything. Are we done here?"
The guards looked at each other and reluctantly agreed, "You can go."
John turned sharply and stomped back to the cart, throwing the bags in the back. Sammy wasn't crying anymore. He was clapping his hands and jabbering, dark hair in his eyes and sticking up at the sides. John figured it was time to cut it.
He looked down at where Dean was supposed to be and his blood pressure rose to a dangerous level when he realized Dean wasn't there. And he wasn't in the cart. Or under it.
Oh God, he'd let his son get taken by a Wal-Mart pervert.
"Dean," John said, voice stern despite his rising panic.
He was about the yell his name again, when Sammy's babbling got his attention.
"Dee! Dee!" Sammy yelled in delight, staring at the machine he was facing from his seat in the cart.
John knew that Dee translated to Dean and he whipped around to follow Sammy's gaze.
He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but this certainly wasn't it.
Dean was surrounded by stuffed animals, holding a bear up for Sammy as if waiting for his approval.
From inside the claw machine.
His son was inside a Wal-Mart claw machine.
As if his life wasn't weird enough.
John walked up to the claw machine slowly, having trouble believing exactly what he was seeing. He stopped in front of the glass, in the direct eye line of his son. He folded his arms and looked at Dean, waiting for an explanation.
As Dean caught sight of him, the smile left his face, replaced by a look of dread. His shoulders slumped and he bowed his head, clearly knowing he was in big trouble.
John tried hard to keep the amusement from showing on his face. "Dean," he said, "how in the world did you get in there?"
Dean raised his head and looked at him, then pointed down to the little swinging door where the prize was supposed to come out. He did this in lieu of a verbal answer, something John was used to by now.
John bent down and squinted at the door. It was a little square door and John really had no idea how Dean had managed to fit through it. Was he really that small? He'd almost stopped thinking about Dean as a little boy ever since . . . He stopped that train of thought. No good could come of it.
He stood back up and looked at his son, "Time to get out."
Dean nodded and tried to lower himself back down and out of the hole, but he just couldn't seem to bend that way.
By this time, a crowd had gathered and was staring at Dean like an exhibit in the zoo.
John's two friends, Ponch and Baker, were back, gawking along with the others.
"You know," Ponch said, "he really shouldn't be in there."
Briefly, John regretted leaving his gun in the car.
"Yeah, thanks for pointing that out," he said.
He checked on Sammy, who was still amused by his brother's antics, and returned his attention to Dean.
Dean had continued his perusal of the claw machine, waiting patiently to be freed, not at all bothered by his predicament.
John walked around to the back of the machine and saw a key hole on the back panel.
Turning to the security guards, he asked, "Do you have the key for this?"
Baker answered, "Should," and then started talking on his radio, requesting the key.
Five minutes later, they were still waiting for the key and John was seconds away from just picking the lock. Sammy had started to cry again and no amount of Dean trapped in the glass or dancing bears could quiet him.
He reached into his pocket, digging out a paperclip and headed to the back of the machine.
"Sir," Ponch's voice came out, "I can't let you do that. That's Wal-Mart property."
John glared at him, "My son's trapped in your machine and you idiots can't find the key. Either you let me pick the lock or I'll shoot the glass out. Your choice."
There were a series of gasps at John's statement. The mothers' shook their heads at him in disapproval, pulling their children close. The old woman they were stuck behind earlier actually hit him in the legs with her walker and tsked at him.
John suppressed the urge to knock her on her Depends-covered ass.
But when he turned back to the machine, no one tried to stop him so he figured he got his point across.
He inserted the paperclip and seconds later the back door was open and he lifted Dean out, setting him on his feet.
Dean didn't look at him, but John knew the firm grip he had on his shoulder was telling enough.
When Dean caught sight of all the people staring at him, John felt him moving closer to his leg, one arm snaking around his knee for protection.
Ponch was staring at them in disapproval, shaking his head. "If there's damage, you'll have to pay for it."
John sighed, "Just bill me."
He walked Dean back over to Sammy and their cart and Dean looked up at Sammy, who had stopped crying. "Sorry, Sammy," John heard him whisper and wasn't sure what he meant, but was too tired to worry about it now.
He grabbed the cart with one hand, still keeping hold of Dean with the other.
Dean followed dutifully, his head bowed as if he was marching to his death.
Now that the little boy was freed from his glass prison, the crowd had dispersed and Ponch, thankfully, let them go.
Once they got to the Impala, he handed Dean the bag with the diapers and baby wipes and grinned. Dean looked at him in disgust.
"You get trapped in a claw machine, you change Sammy's stinky diaper," John stated.
Dean sighed like a forty-year-old man, but took the bag and changed Sammy on the backseat of the Impala without complaint.
After Sammy was stink-free, John strapped him into his too-small car seat and Dean climbed into the backseat next to him, buckling himself in.
John got into the front seat and pulled the Impala out of the Wal-Mart, heading back onto the highway.
A half hour passed, the silence punctuated by Sammy's soft, baby snores.
"Dean," John said, looking at his son in the rear view mirror.
"Don't ever do that again. When I tell you to stay somewhere, you stay there."
"Yes, sir," Dean answered.
"What would have happened if someone had come and tried to take Sammy when you were inside the machine? What could you have done?"
"Nothing," Dean said, his voice soft, barely above a whisper.
"What?" John barked.
"Nothing, sir," Dean said, his voice louder.
"That's right, Dean. You wouldn't have been able to do anything," John's voice filled the car and woke Sammy from his nap. John cursed himself and tried to reign in his anger. He hadn't meant to be so angry, but his amusement at the situation had worn off and all he could think about were all the things that could have happened.
John could hear Dean in the backseat, soothing Sammy and trying to get him to calm down. He looked in the rear view mirror and saw Dean handing Sammy his pacifier, which his youngest son took and put in his mouth, quieting down considerably.
Silence filled the car again until John felt a small hand on his arm. He turned to see Dean unbuckled and leaning on the floor. "I'm sorry, Daddy," he said.
Everything in John told him to tell him it was okay, but then he thought of Mary and fire and he couldn't do it.
"Don't be sorry, Dean," John told him sternly, eyes on the road, "Be prepared. Be smart."
The hand left his arm and John knew that Dean was returning to his seat, dejected.
John turned the radio on low, hoping it would expel the doubts from his mind.
A little while later, Dean's voice drifted up to John from the backseat. John's interest was peaked; these days, Dean rarely initiated any conversation, only answering John's questions.
"Sammy . . ." Dean began and then stopped. John could see him shifting in his seat, unsure about what he was going to say.
"What?" John asked softly.
Dean sat up straighter in his seat. "Sammy's toys are all gone. And I saw a bear in the machine that looked like the one he used to have. And I . . . I just wanted him to have it."
John's breath caught in his throat. Jesus, he was a horrible father. "The next shopping trip, we'll pick Sammy up something, okay? No more climbing into machines."
"Yes, sir," Dean said, leaning back in his seat.
There was some rustling from the backseat and then Dean spoke again.
"What's a tro . . . tro-jan?"
John had thought for sure he had about ten more years until he had to answer that question.
"You mean like Greek mythology?" Please let him mean Greek mythology.
Dean shrugged. "No, that's what this package says."
John whipped his head around to the back and say Dean holding a small package in his hand. "Give me that, now."
Dean reluctantly relinquished the package. "What is it?"
Think fast, John, think fast. "It's like cough medicine."
Dean moved away from the offending package as fast as he could. His war against cough medicine was a long and bloody one.
"Burn it, Daddy. Salt and burn it."
John laughed, rolled down the window and threw it out. "Dean, use a baby wipe and wash off your hands."
John heard shuffling and knew the order was being followed.
Then Dean rolled down the window and threw the baby wipe out, a proud smile on his face.
John knew that there was a lecture about littering that any responsible parent would give but he just didn't care.
"Where'd you get that anyway?" John asked.
"In the claw machine."
That was it. If he wasn't sure before, he was now. Wal-Mart was officially enemy territory.