I take no credit for the 'word play'…that came from a number of varied sources…with the exception of the very last one, which was the work of the fantastic Bev (birdie) who is well renowned for her ability at messing with words…
'Beelzebug' and the Bible
With a high pitched groan the door swung wide open letting a thick shaft of light fall across the floor.
The layout was the same as ever; two chairs, one sofa, one tiny coffee table, one small kitchen – but the air was tinged with the smell of dust mites, mould and the aroma of strong bleach that couldn't work hard enough to drown out the pungent drains.
"Man, this has gotta be one of the crappies dives he's ever dumped us in, Dean." Sam halted in the doorway, his shoulders slumping even lower as he took in the room.
Bare plaster clung to the walls by the skin of its teeth but looked like it wouldn't for much longer as crumbling flakes drifted their way to the ground, and a single swirl of pale green stained the perimeter at waist height circling the dingy living room and signalling the marriage of dry rot and wet mould. Strands of pale slinky cobweb hung in the corners, gently teasing along with the flow of air, quietly gathering small carcasses and dust.
Looking over his brother's shoulder, Dean wasn't sure in all his eighteen years he'd ever seen a room like it, well not one that wasn't surrounded by a crime scene cordon, anyway…but Sam didn't need to know that. "Awe comm'on, man. It ain't that bad. There's a TV. Bet there's a porn channel…and I won't even tell the old man if you wanna watch…learn a thing or two, kiddo." Dean winked at his brother as he pushed past him; heaving both duffels in through the narrow door. His skin was itching from just walking in, but Sam didn't need to know that either.
Outside the hot desert breeze was picking up, rattling the loose kitchen window against its frame.
It sent rusty sand rolling in through the open doorway, sliding over the bare floorboards and trickling down through the holes in the wood. The holes where Dean just knew, it would be landing on the tiny heads of the infesting roaches, that would later be climbing up and trying to eat them before the night was through. Man, this really was a dive. He felt his inner optimism drifting away, his 'glass half full' attitude, gradually evaporating to very much 'empty'.
Dean was not happy.
He hadn't been happy since he'd watched John take off in their only form of transport, disappearing into the distance and sending up a killer wave of dustbowl red sand that swamped his baby's carefully achieved gleaming paintwork. He'd deserted them on the far outskirts of a piss ant town with no motel, no diner, no launderette and only one hick filled red neck bar that John had already forbidden them to enter, and gone to meet his contact alone.
And Sammy had his own funk going; he was growing up fast and into a pretty typical teenager as it happened. Didn't need a hunt, he had his own internal daily battles with raging hormones to fight and there were times when Dean thought his little brother wasn't exactly on the winning side. Looking around Sam didn't even bother to mask the…'what a shit tip'…expression with his customary weak smile.
Glancing over at the floppy haired teenager, Dean couldn't help but think that the sooner he could get the kid sitting in front of the TV with the remote and maybe a beer or two, the better... Just one beer, it wouldn't hurt and what John didn't know…he couldn't bitch about.
Dumping the bags on the floor at the foot of the nearest chair, he took his frustrations out on the door kicking it shut with his boot, and took a more appraising look around. Yup…This did actually suck out loud and then some. But it only took a second before the training regime of a lifetime kicked in….suck it up and make good of a bad situation…yeah right. Decisively, Dean got his feet moving and marched towards the small kitchen snagging the brown paper bag of groceries John had bought from the last service station they'd stopped at.
A full on grin. "Ok, you go hit the shower, stilt-boy and I'll get some food on the go. Right now you smell worse than the sink".
Sam scratched at his sweat damp hair conscientiously and, leaving his brother to wonder why his boots were sticking to the kitchen lino, stomped over to the bathroom disappearing behind the door. It was flaking grey paint like a rattler shedding its skin and it wouldn't close, just hung limp on the hinges. After a moment, a deep grumble of trapped air in the pipes and a thud of metallic timbre echoed through the room. And it didn't let up. Sam's pouting ruffled head appeared round the corner again, rapidly followed by the rest of him. "No water."
"No hot water?"
"No water. Hot, cold or tepid…just no water." He pushed both hands deep in his pockets and shrugged.
Dean reached out and tried the kitchen tap, heralding another round of clanging that could easily have been someone banging on the pipe with a wrench. He took a deep silent breath through his nose and ground his teeth together, sullenly acknowledging that the house may have won this battle but the war was far from over. Not much they could do about it till John got back and then they could pile in the car and put this dump in the rear-view. With a sniff, he started work on the bags on the counter.
"Um, Sammy? Did you actually see dad buy any groceries while I was filing the tank?"
"Nah, I was using the restroom, good thing too cos I ain't using that." He freed one hand from his pocket long enough to prod a thumb over his shoulder back towards the bathroom.
"So, we have no food then…" Dean was a little too loud and jarred one hand against the grimy countertop a little harder than he'd intended. "There's a big'ol bag of salt…oh no wait, scratch that…there's three big'ol bags of salt, one jumbo bottle of lighter fluid, a bunch of candles, three boxes of matches…but nothing to actually eat."
Dean sensed the familiar tinge of anger bubbling up from somewhere deep inside, how the hell was he supposed to look after Sammy now? Wasn't it bad enough the kid was shacked up in a bug infested dump for the night without going hungry too? Silently he swore at John for his addiction to anything that would protect his family but not actually feed them, for the man's uncanny ability to supply every supernatural protection under the sun but nothing to actually put on the table…And then he swore at himself for not having been more prepared, for not seeing this coming.
There were all sorts or reasons why renting a mobile home had the advantage over staying in a motel. They were by and large more remote so offered better concealment, usually cheaper for long hauls too, and they could come and go as they pleased without arousing suspicion. Of course the down side was they were usually so removed from civilisation that they might not see another human soul for a week.
Arriving at his decision, Dean dug in his jeans pocket feeling for the mobile used only for emergencies. He scrolled down the short list and pushed the dial button before turning to his brother. "Sammy, go check the bedrooms."
"What? Why? You think there gonna be better than this?"
"Dude, check the rest of the house, consider it recon…we need to know what were dealing with here."
Sam tutted and sloped off knowing full well Dean just didn't want him overhearing the conversation. He thrust his chin even further towards the floor, matching his hands in his pockets and walked with long belligerent strides down the shabby hall, pushing into the first bedroom.
Back in the kitchen Dean clenched his free hand into a fist as the ansaphone picked up. 'This is John Winchester…You know what to do. Beep…'
He cleared his throat weekly and glanced down the hall to see if Sam was within earshot before he spoke. "Dad? It's me…look, we're okay, but we're a little stuck here. Place is kinda falling down and there's no food or water…so, um, if ya get this…could you swing by a seven eleven…or something, thanks dad. Later."
Dean scowled at his own weakness, for his own stowed away resentment that only reared its ugly head on occasion. But he'd been hoping this might be one of them. Then again, there was no sense in goading the old man and having to live with the fallout later, he knew what John was when he was hunting and 'fixated' didn't sum it up. He shook his head ruefully. With nowhere to go to hustle money and nowhere to shop even if they had some, there was no alternative but to wait it out and hope John didn't get sidetracked and forget about them all together, and for Dean, that thought was as scary as any werewolf or angry spirit he'd ever faced.
Make the best of it, make the best of it, make the best of it…The smile that hid the rest of his face with was worthy of an Oscar as he saw Sam skulking back down the corridor.
He threw the same thumb over his shoulder. "Same."
Dean shot him a concerned look. When the hell did Sam get so world weary? He sounded like nothing was ever going to surprise him again. It made him flinch inside, how the kid could make one word sound so full of disappointment and defeat was beyond him. "Okay, I'm gonna check out the rest of the kitchen, you have a look around in there." He nodded to the living room. "Maybe check out what channels there are?"
There was that disillusioned tone again, and it tore Dean up. He felt his cheek twitch as every muscle on his face fought against his smile but he shook it off and concentrated on the squeaky kitchen cupboards. Just a moment later and he heard Sam groan.
"What's up?" God what now? He had a hand covering his nose as he closed the mini fridge, almost happy that they had nothing to put in it.
Dean straightened like a rocket; this was just not funny anymore. "You're kiddin me. Right? Tell me you're joking, Sammy?"
"Nope." He was pushing every button on the remote and had already checked the plug.
"Oh, man." Dean stomped over to his brother and took the remote from his hand but he had no better luck…and as Sam watched him, he saw a familiar dark look slowly shroud his brother's face.
Sam knew when to listen to Dean, when to fight with him…even when it was okay to mess with his head and he KNEW when he was required to execute the perfect retreat. And now was that time. It was almost comical to watch him trying to disappear into the background, to shrink his huge lanky body into a tiny corner but somehow he managed it. He slunk away from the TV and made his way over the creaky floor to the small bookcase in the corner, starting to fumble with the few dusty paperbacks left by the last resident.
Dean could almost taste the bitter cloud descend over him, hovering at chest height making every heartbeat push more black anger around his body. And he knew if he was going to prevent Sam from suffering the effects, he'd better move somewhere else. Turning on the spot he stormed back towards the kitchen, his skin bristling and fuelled with enough rage to fight off three wendigo at once…
…until the ground gave way under his feet.
He dropped straight down, his left leg piercing through the rotten floorboard as though it was made of balsa wood and landing heavily on his butt. But not before he'd felt his ankle twist bone against bone and the softness of whatever his booted foot had landed on…and he really didn't want to know what that was.
"SON OF A BITCH"
"DEAN?" Sam didn't know how to react. He wanted to run over and help, make sure his brother was okay…but he wanted to bend double and laugh till he cried too. The scowl on Dean's face made it clear that for the moment he should do neither. He didn't dare move till he heard the sudden sharp intake of breath and saw the grimace of pain on Dean's face as he pulled his boot back through the hole, muttering obscenities under his breath.
Leaving caution behind, Sam ran to his side barely avoiding the gaping hole himself and gripped Dean hard under the arm, hauling him up off the floor and helping him over to one of the seats. As he dropped heavily into the sagging stuffed chair, it sent up a thin cloud of pale dust that covered his sweat damp shirt and made him choke. He looked up and for a fleeting moment caught sight of the pity in his brothers eyes…and there was no getting away from it, this was the worst damned stop over they'd ever had.
John put his foot down and felt a surge of speed as the car picked up its pace while he silently chided himself. How he'd been able to forget food for his boys was beyond him, what would Mary have thought? He rolled his eyes and glanced at the bags of provisions and the six-pack on the passenger seat. Well at least Dean would be glad of that. God, that boy looked so much like Mary sometimes it was painful. And every time he screwed up he saw his eldest looking at him with the same patient understanding and tolerance he'd seen from her for the all too brief life they'd had together.
The evening was drawing in but he could still make out the faint layer of red dust flying off the once shiny, black metal skin. That would be another reason to see the disappointment in Dean's face. He knew his eldest would sulk for all of five minutes before insisting on the clean up job, but that could wait till morning. Right now he had some bridges to mend.
As far as he knew, neither boy had eaten since breakfast without a word of complaint, and that just made him feel worse. Dean's message had typically only given the barest of information but with that boy it was always what he didn't say that communicated the most to John.
Yep, he had some bridges to mend all right.
With a heaved sigh, Sam repositioned the ice pack on Dean's elevated ankle and stowed away the rest of the first aid kitwatching his brother sit in a cloud of dust motes playing in the light, staring ahead impassively with eyes fixed on nothing at all. He sat completely still in the sagging armchair, the only sign of life, the repetitive bunching and relaxing of the small muscle in his jaw. He looked like a man who'd taken just about everything the world could throw at him and then some…and it was a rare thing for Dean to hit rock bottom like this.
As Dean sat, Sam made himself busy, laying salt lines, moving the bags into the bedrooms, anything in fact so he didn't have to brave the cold silence bleeding from his brother. Not until he had a plan at least. Finally he wondered back to the shelves and started riffling through what was there, smearing dust and cobweb away from each surface till he couldn't bear the silence any more.
"So…you okay, bro?"
Dean said nothing, just stared ahead; eyes resting on the small blank TV screen, clearly resigned to the fact that the world was out to get him.
Sam tried again. "There's a pack of cards here…oh, no hang fire, there's half a pack of cards here. Looks like the last tenants needed roaches, the small cardboard kind…that is…"
After a too long pause Dean spoke softly, his voice a portrait of misery and dejection. "Maybe we could play half a game of poker?"
"Yeah right…umm…there are some paperbacks…oh, and a bible…" Sam turned wide concerned eyes to his brother and waved the huge tome under his nose.
"Good. Were gonna need that to squash the other kind of roach that'll be coming out any time now…" As if on cue a beetle the length of Dean's thumbnail ambled its way across the floorboards, its little black legs moving ten to the dozen, and ducked down into one of the many hollow knots in the wood.
Both boys watched it scuttle and Sam bit his bottom lip looking to his brother for a reaction that didn't come…until Dean whispered…"Jeez, we're gonna be eaten by 'Beelzebug' in our sleep…dad will only find our bones…" His voice trailed off as his eyes glazed over.
"Nah, that's not true, man, there'll be at least some blood and probably some hair and gristle…and don't forget teeth…" Sam tried a weak smile and shrugged as Dean slowly looked his way.
"How could I forget teeth…?"
Smiling even more, Sam pushed on. "That's a good one, 'Beelzebug' I like that?"
"Yeah, I'm a god damned genius, didn't you know?" Still sounded flat and miserable but at least he was talking, at least they were having a conversation and that was good, right? And then Dean's upper body erupted in an explosion of frantic motion, arms flailing wildly, snorting and rubbing at his nose until his fingers finally caught hold of the tendril of cobweb that had drifted over his face. He wiped the thick matted strands on the arm of the chair and looked up, registering Sam's very genuine smile.
"If you sit still too long that is gonna happen, dude…don't have an 'Arachnoleptic' fit or anything." A tiny chuckle from his brother and Sam's chest tightened. Score one to me!
" 'Arachnoleptic' fit, huh?…And how long did it take you to come up with that little gem?" There was definitely a hint of a smile and something that looked a little like pride coloring Dean's eyes.
So now for the challenge. "It's better than 'Beelzebug', dude…."
Dean gently stroked under his chin, pondering, and then… "Least I'm not acting like an 'Ignoranus', like you…?"
"Ignoranus, dummy…A person who's both truly stupid and an asshole at the same time." Dean said triumphantly…that one had to be a winner.
Sam thought for a moment then nodded slowly. "Your right, big bro, but you do suffer from that little known condition known as 'Osteopornosis.' And dude, it's degenerative, you could go blind". Fighting to keep his face impassive, Sam pursed his lips but his eyes were saying 'beat that'.
So Dean did.
Scratching his scalp, he shifted in the seat. "Well as it happens, Sammy, I do have acute 'Hipatitis'…that's the disease you get when you're just too cool for your own good. But don't worry kiddo; looking at you I can tell it's not hereditary…" He winked at his brother who stood open mouthed, brain working overtime to come up with something anywhere near as good.
"Yeah…well I think that's your 'Glibido' talking there, Dean, you know? All talk and no action?"
"More action than in your dreams little brother, told you before, you have to work on your 'Foreploy.'
Sam snorted and shook his head. "My what?"
"Foreploy, Sammy…" He raised both eyebrows suggestively. "…it's the stuff you make up about yourself for the purpose of getting laid."
Sam barked out a laugh and shook his head. Well and truly beaten he slumped onto the arm of the opposite chair; the familiar beaming smirk coming from his brother was worth every second of defeat. But then…a thought. "Of course, that foreploy would only work if you had the money to take 'em out on a date and I've been a little 'Cashtrated' lately."
That had Dean laughing out loud, one hand clutching his chest as he bent forward, twisted ankle and death by cobweb all but forgotten. The peels of laughter only served to spur Sam on and he had to fight to be heard over his brothers choking when he breathed in a lungful of dust.
"And don't forget the 'Dopeler' effect, that's when stupid ideas seem smarter when you think of them real fast…but that's only cos the 'Bozone' is getting thicker, that's the atmospheric layer surrounding real stupid people that stops bright ideas from getting in." Sam had to stop for a minute to get his breath, his own laughter spilling from his mouth as he watched the tears of mirth stream down Dean's face. This was more like it, this was way more like it…
Sam watched his brother wrap both hands over his mouth but it couldn't hold in the guffaws of laughter wracking through him, the tears flowing freely down his cheeks and that was all Sam needed to see for his own body to crease up in joyful delight.
Neither knew how long they'd laughed and neither cared, this was good for the soul and boy, did they both need that.
John circled the house silently, shifting his weight from his heels to the balls of his feet ensuring there was no noise as he crept over the dusty ground. His fingers curled around the cool metal of the berretta in his hand, his weapon of choice. He'd left the car further up the road…his hunter instinct in overdrive as he'd looked ahead and seen the house in darkness.Real darkness like there was nobody home. And it looked like a derelict, he hadn't noticed that before…had he really left his boys here? For a brief moment he'd wondered if Dean had marched his brother out and headed for the small makeshift town, but he'd dismissed the thought. That's where he'd just come from and he felt sure he'd have seen them, damned town only had four buildings anyway.
Then he'd thought maybe there was no electricity, but he dismissed that idea too. It was a possibility but it was the easy answer, and John wasn't a man who ever accepted the easy answer and so far that attitude had kept him and his boys alive and fighting.
As each step took him closer, his trepidation grew. They weren't even on a hunt, what could be after them?...But then he answered his own question with a list longer than he had time to recite and shook it from his head. Had to stay focused. Had to get in without being seen, assess the danger and act accordingly to save his boys. His boys, God…anything could be going on in there…
The window in the south facing bedroom was hanging away from its housing and it didn't take much to pry it a little further and squeeze through.
Moving noiselessly from the bedroom up the hallway, he thought he heard a faint voice from the living room, possibly Sam's voice, followed by Dean's deeper tone…That was good, they were both alive… and then suddenly rapturous laughter. John frowned wondering if his ears were deceiving him, but no there was definite laughter…and something was obviously hysterically funny cos the laughter didn't let up. Quickening his pace he stealthily turned the corner into the living room and took in the sight with a hunter's instant speed and precision.
Sam was sitting on the floor cross-legged opposite his brother, who was on a chair with his foot propped up on the table, an ice pack wrapped around his ankle. He'd have to ask them about that. Candle light shone off their faces and he could see the liberal scattering of salt all over the floor. He'd have to ask them about that too. Then the laughter died to a gentle chuckle and Sam spoke up…
"And Dean? You think any of those bar room hillbillies are Buddhist? Think they believe in 'Reintarnation'?" That heralded another explosion of laughter from his eldest the likes he'd not seen since Mary was alive. Dean was wide eyed and blushing with the effort of laughing so much, and that was a sight John never thought he'd see again…not in this lifetime.
Then Sam spoke again. "Or maybe that would just send out so many bad vibes that the world would end, guess that would be 'Karmageddon', huh?" Sam followed that one with a fit of giggles of his own.
Dean's face was wet with tears and it was all he could do to falteringly get the words out. "Smmy…plse…stop" He gasped and held his chest as the happiness fought to escape him.
And John had seen enough. He backtracked down the hall and out through the loose window frame making his way back to the car. When he got there he paused, leaning on the black metal and ignoring the layer of dust that was rubbing off on his jacket. Now that was a sight for sore eyes.
He stood by the car as the night drew closer and pondered his next move. He knew walking in there would put a halt to the fun, would turn both his boys back into men and he didn't have the heart to do it straight away. For a good ten minutes he waited, and then finally he got back in the car and drove the short distance to the house. Grabbing the bags of groceries, he climbed out of the car and slammed the door as noisily as he could. Then, pausing, he took a steadying breath and marched up to the house pushing open the door and striding in, calling out to his boys as he went.
"Sam? Dean? Got food and…" But he never got to finish.
The air left his lungs as he found himself plummeting downwards in a shower of groceries as his right leg fell through a deep hole in the floorboards and he landed hard on his ass. For a moment there was abject silence. Until a small but sly voice from Sam.
"Fell through the floor…? Got a dented ass…? Guess that makes it an 'Asscident.'…huh."