Hotdogs, Baseball, and Apple Pie
By: NC Girl
Disclaimer: Only the story itself belongs to me; Supernatural characters are being borrowed.
Note: This has not been through the beta process. All grammatical mistakes and consistency errors are my own. And no matter how much I proof my own writing, it is inevitable that a handful of errors will slip by and be posted for the world to see. Or at least the 2 or 3 people who end up reading this. To these folks, I apologize.
If you want to know the truth, it's not often that my brother wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. You'd probably think that a self-proclaimed "night owl" would be a natural pain in the ass during the early hours of the day, but that's just not Dean. Well, not any more than usual anyway. Oh sure, you'll be lucky to get a complete sentence or even a coherent sentence-fragment out of him before his initial cup of caffeine, but his mumblings and grunts are generally pleasant in nature and tone. Actually, the incoherent comments and uncoordinated movements are pretty damn hilarious and irresistibly tempting to use as tormenting material. Yet somehow, the words "Shut up, Sam!" always seem to be delivered loud and clear when I've pushed him too far. But even then, it's usually delivered without a lot of verbal punch.
This morning, however, was different. For some unknown reason, Dean was irritated and no amount of coffee seemed to fix it. Although I knew it was pointless, I did approach the subject one time before we left the motel to drive to our next destination.
"You okay, Dean? You seem a little-"
"Shut up, Sam."
Okay, that was delivered with a little more intensity than normal. I didn't have to be told twice. Note taken. Kid brother is officially shutting up until big brother successfully removes whatever the hell it is that crawled up his-
"Look, you'd better shake a leg. I'm pullin' out in two minutes. With or without you."
And with that, Dean stormed out to the car and tossed his bag into the trunk.
Ladies and gentlemen, Evil has left the building.
I could tell that it was going to be a long and lonely ride to, uh, wherever the hell it was we were headed. I pulled the iPod from my bag before I zipped it closed and headed outside. Dean already had the car running so I quickly stowed the bag, slammed the trunk closed, and walked up to his door. The window was rolled down and his arm was hanging out, dangling along the outside panel.
"I'm just going to… return the… key…" I let my voice trail off when I got the irritated, narrow-eyed, Shut-up-Sam-look and quickly jogged to the motel office and back. Dean was kind enough to wait until the majority of my body was safely inside the car before he pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward the highway without a word.
We rode in silence for hours. Dean was stewing in his corner; I was doing my best to ignore him from mine. How the guy could be so grumpy on a day like today was completely beyond my comprehension. It was a postcard-picture day and we were driving through the Virginia mountains on our way, I finally remembered, to northern Georgia. The air was cool, the traffic was light… what's not to love about a day like this? Dean had finally popped in a tape and he seemed to lighten-up a little so I stepped out onto the proverbial balcony of eggshells.
"Hey, what do you think about taking a break?" I asked in an unnaturally cheerful tone and then held my breath as I waited for the response.
My brother looked at me for a split second before turning his attention back to the road. I actually think he forgot I was there. Nice.
"Look, there are only a few hours of daylight left, man. I want to keep driving."
Okay, apparently I needed to rephrase the question.
"Hey," I started again, in a tone as equally cheerful as before, "what do you think about taking a break before I take a leak all over your upholstery?"
Again, Dean turned to look at me, but this time I greeted him with a cocked eyebrow and a look that challenged, Do you really want to take a chance that I might be kidding about this? He held my gaze for a couple of seconds before he unwillingly let his face soften and the corners of his mouth pulled into a very slight smile. He turned back to face the road trying to camouflage the amused look on his face.
Dean pulled off at the next exit which took us to a small town that looked remarkably like Mayberry. I swear to God, there was even a general store and a barber shop with two older men sitting outside on wooden chairs, shootin' the breeze. We drove through the center of the two-light town and came up on Elsie's Diner.
"Guess we should make this an early dinner break," Dean said with a sigh as he pulled into the parking lot and killed the engine. Considering we only had coffee for breakfast and drove through normal lunch hours, I thought it was a damn-fine idea. I dashed inside to locate the restroom, leaving my brother to his own devices.
When I returned, I found Dean standing in line. The place was absolutely packed and there appeared to be a wait for seating. As expected, Dean looked irritated and antsy so
I approached him cautiously, the standard operating procedure for the day.
"Hey, man, let's put in a take-out order and go across the street to that park. Looks like there are some bleachers over by the ball field. There's no sense in waiting around to eat in here."
Dean just stared at me as if I that was the most insane thing he'd ever heard. Eat? Outside? Apparently it was just too much for him to wrap his mind around. I tried to make things easier on him.
"Okay, look, I'll order. You walk across the street and stake claim on a bench. I'll be over in a few."
Dean let out a long sigh, apparently deciding that it was just easier to go along with my plan than wait 30 minutes for a greasy table in a smoky diner. "Yeah, fine." He turned to head out the door.
"Great!" I started, again with the fake cheeriness in my voice. "So that's a veggie burger for you, right? Extra sprouts and carrot sticks?"
"Shut up, Sam." I heard before the screen door slammed shut behind him, but I didn't completely miss the amused smile on his face. That was twice in 20 minutes. I still didn't know what's eating at him, but at least I knew it wasn't a complete lost cause.
I found Dean sitting alone in the bleachers next to one of the baseball fields on the far side of the park. He was watching a group of college guys try to organize themselves into two teams to begin what looked like a semi-organized, pick-up game of ball. Dean was stretched out across several rows of bleachers, leaning back against one bench with his feet propped on the bench two rows down. The sun was warm but the air was cool and a light breeze had picked up. Not only had we driven into Mayberry, but we had also stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting of a perfect early-spring day. Suddenly I remembered what I had in the bags, only adding to this stereotypical image of wholesome American life, and couldn't help the chuckle as I approached my brother.
"What's so funny?' he asked skeptically.
"Nothing," I replied with a smile as I handed him a bottle of Coke and climbed up the bleachers to sit down.
"So, what's on the menu tonight, Sammy?"
I stared at him in disbelief for a second, shocked at the easy tone in his voice, before I turned my attention to one of the white paper bags in front of me and pulled out a couple of wrapped hotdogs. "Sorry, man, they ran out of burgers." I was fully expecting a complaint.
"Naw, this is good, Sam. Thanks."
I probably shouldn't question it, but what the hell happened while I was gone? Suddenly Dean seemed so much more at ease; so much happier. Not that I'm complaining, of course.
I took a bite of my dinner and nodded to the open bag sitting in front of us. "There are more dogs in the bag. Fries, too."
We spent the next several minutes eating in silence while absently watching the guys on the field warm-up before play. It was obvious that they had played ball together before and were effortlessly going through one drill after another. Dean and I were relaxing on the bleachers, nursing the bottles of Coke, when one of the guys from the field appeared at the fence separating the field from the bleachers.
"Hey, we're short a couple of guys. Ya'll interested in playing some ball?" His southern accent was strong and his demeanor friendly
"If you've got an extra glove, count me in." Dean said, standing up and moving toward the field before I could even fill my lungs with the air it would take to give the man an answer. Was it not, like, an hour ago that my brother was pissed off at the world and determined to plow through the day's driving? Now he wants to play ball? What did I miss? Dean's voice broke through my thoughts. "C'mon, Sam. I'm sure they can give you a spot somewhere it won't matter that you throw like a girl."
I saw the wink that my brother threw in the player's direction as he walked to the gate opening and onto the field. He extended his hand to the red-headed player in the blue t-shirt. "Dean."
"Richie," the guy replied with a smile as he shook Dean's hand. He then clasped my brother on the shoulder and steered him toward the rest of his "blue-shirt" team as he turned toward one of the guys wearing red.
"Jason! We've got a couple of players! Sam, here, has agreed to play with your bunch of losers!"
Dean and I were directed to opposite sides of home plate and quickly introduced to our new teammates. The guy who was introduced to me as Jason handed me a glove.
"Try this on for size, man."
It felt great to put on a well-worn glove. It had been years since I played ball- my sophomore year at Stanford, to be exact- and I was suddenly high at the thought of doing something athletic and competitive that didn't involve death, burning, or exorcism at the end of the "game."
"Are ya psychic, Sam?," Jason asked suddenly, interrupting my thoughts. I looked up to find him staring at me and panicked briefly.
"Well, I figured you must be seeing as how you're already wearing a red t-shirt. You must have known you'd be playing ball with us today," he said innocently. "It's got to be a good sign." He slapped my shoulder as he turned to address the rest of the guys, clipboard in hand.
"Okay, listen up, girls. This is Sam. He'll be filling in for Tony. I'm gonna put him at short to start off; see how he does. We could use the height in the infield. Shawn, take third and Mark, go right. Everyone else, play your regular positions. They're batting first so let's take the field quickly and have a three-up/three-down inning!"
As I ran out to my position, I glanced to the other dugout. Someone had given Dean a well-worn, dark blue, Duke University t-shirt to wear over the long-sleeve gray one he had on. It didn't really match the other player's "uniforms" but it was close enough to the right color. He was already on deck and warming up to bat second.
"Okay, ladies, let's get this show on the road! We're losing daylight here!" someone yelled from the field. "Batter up!"
The first batter stepped into the box, taking a few practice swings as he settled into his stance.
"Buh-buh!" a teammate bellowed from the dugout. "C'mon man, show'em whatcha got!"
Bubba? I couldn't help but chuckle. Are there really people named Bubba? I caught Dean's eye and almost laughed out loud. Apparently we had the exact same thought. He raised his eyebrows in silent question, shrugged his shoulders in silent acceptance, and broke out into a genuine and honest smile. The first one I'd seen in 24 hours.
Ladies and gentleman, he's back!
As if to cement the stereotype, Bubba adjusted his John Deere cap before preparing himself for the first pitch. Taking a solid swing, he slammed the ball into the far center field. Obviously these guys play together often because the outfielders were ready for the hit and were able to stop the power-hitter at first base. The fielders quickly shifted back into their positions as Dean took his in the batter's box, digging his feet into the soft red dirt around home plate.
"We've got a southpaw here, boys!" the pitcher yelled to the rest of us as he waved for the outfielders to shift to the right. Huh, that was news to me. I suddenly realized that in all of our years growing up, Dean and I never once played baseball together. You'd think that after spending the better part of 25 years under the same roof, a guy would know that his brother batted left-handed.
The first pitch was an obvious strike, but it appeared that Dean purposely let it go in order to get a better understanding of the pitcher's style. As he repositioned himself for the second pitch, I could see the determination in his eyes and I knew he'd connect with this one.
The crack sounded much like a shotgun blast as Dean hit a hard line-drive right between the first and second basemen. I ran to cover second as Dean rounded first, running like a bat out of hell, right toward me. The right fielder snagged the ball after the first bounce and threw it hard in my direction. From the corner of my eye, I saw Dean drop and heard the unmistakable sound of sliding as his foot connected with the bag a full second before the ball connected with my glove.
"Safe!" the designated umpire shouted along with half the team from the dugout and cheers erupted in reaction to his gutsy play. After tossing the ball back to the pitcher, I reached down and pulled Dean to his feet.
I patted him on the shoulder, sending a red cloud of dust from his clothing into the air. "Show off."
"All in a day's play, Sammy boy," he replied around a laugh, followed by a short coughing fit, thanks to all of the stirred-up dirt billowing in the air around him.
The rest of the inning was fairly short with three runs scored by Dean's blue team and two scored by my red team. While the game was taken seriously and everyone played hard, the mood was light and it was easy to tell that the main objective of the game was truly to have fun. Well, that and to win the keg of Virginia's finest that was riding on the outcome. So, by all accounts, stakes were high, but the laughs were easy and the banter plenty.
After nearly an hour later, the sun had set enough to make it difficult to see the ball. Richie's voice bellowed from his position as third-base coach, addressing both teams at the start of the 5th inning.
"Looks like we're nearly out of daylight and this field doesn't have lights. Unless someone thought to bring a beeper-ball, this will have to be the last inning. Let's make it a good one, huh? I'm thirsty and I've been thinking about that keg all afternoon!"
"You'd better be thinking of how you're going to pay for it, Opie!" Malcolm, the second baseman, yelled from his position next to me, obviously connecting Richie's red-headed, boyish looks to the character from fictional Mayberry (quite fitting considering this town). However, the finger that Richie raised in good-natured retaliation blew that wholesome image right out of the water. Laughs erupted from both sides of the field until someone gave a hearty "play ball!"
The final inning was played with as much enthusiasm and energy as the first despite the fact that everyone was exhausted and covered in a layer of orange dust. By the time the left fielder on the blue team easily caught the pop-fly from our batter, effectively ending the game, it was nearly dark. Dean's team had beaten us by two runs thanks to a grand-slam, courtesy of Bubba, in the previous inning. The celebrating started on the field with the promise of more to come.
"Okay, the party officially begins at my place at 9:30," Richie declared. "That should give you plenty of time to pick up the keg, Jason. Oh, and don't forget the ice, man. I like my beer nice and cold."
Half of the "red team" simultaneously gave Richie the one finger salute while the other half started whistling the theme from The Andy Griffith Show.
"Dean, Sam, ya'll are coming to the party, right? It's not far from here and you're welcome to crash for the night. My roommate is out of town and there is an extra couch in the back room." Obviously, Dean had told him that we were just passing through town.
"Man, I wish we could, but we've really got to be in Georgia first thing in the morning." Dean said, genuinely sounding disappointed, yet determined. "Rain check?"
"You know it, buddy," Richie said, extending his hand with a smile. He turned to me. "Great game, Stretch. Ya'll take it easy and drive safe," he said with a firm handshake followed by the presentation of two business cards. "Give me a call the next time you're in the area. There will be cold beer waiting for you with your names on it."
Dean and I walked back to the diner where we had left the Impala, stopping briefly at the bleachers to pick up the second, unopened white bag from earlier. Dean's entire mood had changed in just over an hour ago and I couldn't help but to give him a playful shove, knocking him slightly off balance.
"Wow. Who woulda guessed that the secret to getting Dean Winchester out of a pissy mood was to play a little baseball? Geez, if I knew that sooner it would have saved me a lot of grief. Remind me to pick up a baseball and bat, would ya? You know, for emergencies."
"Shut up, Sam."
This time, I laughed heartedly as I walked along side my brother. Dean smiled down at the ground and then looked up at me as he unexpectedly returned the shove and effectively launched me into the side of the car.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the skeptical side of Dean Winchester reared its ugly head.
"Don't you feel like this entire afternoon was a little too surreal?" Dean asked as he opened his door and slid inside the car. "I mean, first we stop in freakin' Mayberry on a picture-perfect day, play some baseball with Richie Cunningham and friends, and all appears to be peachy-keen in the world. Honestly, it's like that movie Field of Dreams or something. Everything's all 'hot dogs, baseball, and apple pie' around here."
Although I laughed at his take on events, I couldn't help but be a little annoyed. "Don't do this, man. Can't you just enjoy it? Do you have to be suspicious?"
"Or The Twilight Zone!" he said as if he just had the ultimate epiphany. He was obviously still wrapped-up in his thoughts and conspiracy theories and didn't hear a word I said.
My brother suddenly turned to face me. "Was I taken by the Djinn again?" he asked seriously. "Were you? Was this real? Is this a dream? Hit me, Sam. "
"No, really. If I'm in Djinnville and you hit me, I'll wake up and…"
Now I honestly couldn't tell if he was being serious or sarcastic. Either way, it was getting on my nerves.
"Stop it! It was just a nice, leisurely afternoon. It's called unwinding. Take it for what it's worth, man. Enjoy it. Relax!" And to lighten the mood again I added, "Geez, and you call me uptight."
Dean let out a long breath and turned back around in the seat. He smiled slightly. "Yeah, you're right." The Impala rumbled to life with a turn of the key and AC/DC blared through the speakers once again. As my brother pulled out onto the road that would take us back to the main highway, he nodded toward the object on the seat between us.
"So, what's in this other bag?"
Without even thinking, I answered honestly.