Sam was still trying to lawyer the guy, even though one whiff should have been enough to make him realize the guy was a stoner of, like, epic proportions. Dean shook his head at Sam's persistence - the kid had always liked to beat his head against brick walls, if his willingness to keep taking Dad on in dumbshit, unwinnable arguments was any indication - and climbed into the truck.
The thing was almost insultingly easy to hotwire, and the engine had been grumbling like a small, pissed-off housecat for about ten minutes before Sam and the guy even realized that their whole discussion was, at that point, pretty fucking moot. The guy lifted dazed eyes from Sam's face (the appearance and disappearance of Sam's dimples as he argued seemed to have confused the poor guy to the point where his voice kept trailing off and his hands came up to snatch at them) to see Dean, sitting pretty in the driver's seat, looking way more badass than anyone who'd ever sat in that seat before could have looked on his best damn day.
Sam finally seemed to catch on, and with a wave of his giant hands that made the guy duck and fold his arms over his head protectively, jumped into the truck and said, "Get it in gear, Dean." Then, because he was Sammy, wannabe lawyer and total authority freak, he leaned back out and said, "Don't worry, sir; we'll bring your truck back as soon as we can."
Dean saw the guy turn to figure out who exactly Sam had been calling sir, and he cackled and stepped on the gas, rocketing them up to a blazing ten miles an hour.
"God damn it, why won't this thing turn the fuck off?" Dean bellowed over the tinkly chimes of the world's catchiest and most annoying jingle. "I always thought the driver could -"
"Pick the music?" Sam cuts in, smirking like a champ. "Nice tunes, princess."
"Control the music, I was going to say," Dean finished while shooting a slit-eyed glare sideways to take in the overgrown punk.
"Early ice cream trucks did have cranks -"
"You're a crank," Dean managed to interrupt.
"- that had to be turned manually to make the jingle play, so the song wasn't going continuously."
"Thanks, professor. Why the hell do you even know that? No, better yet, how is it that you can know the arcane history of ice cream trucks, but you can't spot a stoner a mile away?"
"I was just giving him the benefit of the doubt!" Sam said heatedly.
"And I'm sure he feels great about that as he rolls naked in a meadow, Sammy," Dean said, gritting his teeth as the high notes blasted out once more.
"Dean?" Sam ventured. "What's, um, the plan?"
"Find the puk," Dean said, the duh implied with his tone of voice.
"And then? We didn't steal an ice cream truck for our health, did we?" Damn, Sam could sound snotty when he wanted to.
"I prefer 'commandeer,'" Dean said as he twisted the oversize steering wheel, fist over fist, just to take a soft right turn. Damn manual steering.
Sam steepled his fingers in front of his face and let out a long-suffering sigh. "Okay, why did we commandeer an ice cream truck for this hunt?" His voice dropped, horrible suspicion dripping from his words. "This wasn't just because you were craving a Chocolate Eclair bar, right? Tell me you're not just getting your kicks with this thing."
"Sammy, Sammy, you gotta chill, man," Dean said, as he found the dirt road with the construction sign he'd spotted that morning. "You know I've got a hell of a plan."
Okay, so maybe it wasn't a great plan, but as far as Dean was concerned, there was no good way to capture a stubborn pukwudgie that had the home-court advantage.
The sun blazed overhead, emphasizing the bright noon heat, while he and Sam ran around the decimated woods trying to catch a little bastard that could make itself look like tree bark. It had a high little screechy laugh, like something from the Chipmunks albums Sam had thought were the greatest in kindergarten, but since it could throw its voice, that wasn't much help in getting a hand on the thing.
A gob of poisonous pukwudgie spit went breezing by Dean's cheek, and that was just it. Time to step this up.
"Nice loogie," he yelled, the words echoing throughout the forest, "but you missed, fucker." It gave itself away when it tried to transfer the flame building on the tip of one of its long, spindly fingers to the hem of Sam's t-shirt. Dean clapped both hands on it, picked it up, and held it at arms' length. "No more fun times for you, ugly," he said, shaking it when it tried to spit again.
"Hey, Sammy, catch," Dean said, lobbing the puk behind him while he raced ahead to the truck.
"Dean! What the hell, man? I wasn't ready!" Sam grumbled, nearly dropping the little bastard.
"Just getting its new home all nice and cozy," Dean shot back, opening the largest freezer compartment and tossing ice cream bars and cones over his shoulder. "Puks hate the cold, it kinda binds them."
"Yeah, but how cold can one of these things get?" Sam asked, barely noticing the thing squirming in his hands; he tucked it underneath his arm like a football.
"These things stay well below zero all day, Sammy, trust me," Dean said. "Now dump it in."
The thing stretched and twisted and even tried the old trick of clinging to the edges, but in the end, it fit snugly in the compartment. It growled angrily up at him when he dropped the heavy metal door shut, but Dean wasn't bothered by it. There was a Cookies and Cream bar just calling his name. And maybe a Reese's bar after that.
"This is the life," Dean said, his feet up on the dash, a rapidly melting chocolate ice cream sandwich in one hand. He brought it up to his mouth so he could lick the side, tongue fitting nicely into the groove between the two cookies, and past it he could see Sam, who was leaning back contemplatively and taking thoughtful little bites of his Strawberry Shortcake bar. And smiling for once in his life, so Dean rewarded himself with an extra big bite.
He finished off the sandwich in short order, enjoying the freezing static of an ice cream headache, and stood up. "Where're you going?" Sam asked, sounding like the sunshine and ice cream had drugged him.
"Maybe the thing wants a treat," Dean said, lifting the lid the puk had been kind of feebly hammering on. Eyes as colorless as water gazed up at him, and Dean dropped a softening King Cone down the hatch. "Enjoy," he said, and dropped the lid again. He ignored whatever Sam was mumbling about idiots and risks and sugar bribery.
"Where the hell did all of these rugrats come from?" Dean shouted, frantically twisting the steering wheel to avoid a few more materializing from thin air and practically throwing themselves under the truck's wheels.
"Well, Dean, when a man and a woman love each other very much, sometimes they make babies together." Yeah, Sam had crashed from his sugar high. With a vengeance.
"Shut it, punk. You know what I mean."
"Well, it's 3:15 now. School must be out. Hence, the kids."
"Hence? I thought you'd at least bust out a little Latin and maybe a semicolon or two - something like, 'Dean, these children's daily educational ritual concludes its diurnal routine promptly at three in the afternoon; ergo, they are free from the confines of the building.'" He kind of ran out of steam there at the end, because the swarm of bottomless pits in pigtails and grubby knees effectively painted the truck into a corner, and he had to concentrate to make sure he steered clear.
"Mister!" one enterprising kid yelled as soon as Dean had jammed the brakes on, and within seconds, the truck was surrounded, all the children echoing the first. At least the goddamn music died once the ignition was off.
"Form a line," Sam said sternly, coming out to stand on the first step. A gasp ran through the crowd at the size of the guy ordering them around, and Dean could see the kids' eyes growing wide and fearful.
"Whatever, Sammy," Dean said, shouldering his brother outside and tossing the leftovers from the now puk-occupied freezer compartment out of the truck. "Think of it like an ice cream piñata."
"That doesn't even make sense, Dean!"
"You wanna finish the stash?" Dean asked innocently. "Or I could take another crack at it -"
"The people from the Guinness Book aren't here, Dean; you don't need to eat your weight in dairy treats."
Dean's stomach rumbled faintly at the reminder of its exertions, prompting him to get the show on the road. "Hey," he said, sticking his head out of the window. "Did everybody get some?"
"YES!" the kids chorused, sprawled on the grass, each with two or three wrappers crumpled in their messy hands.
"Then let's roll," Dean said, and started the engine - and the music - back up.
"Ohhhh," Dean groaned, nearly swerving as another cramp hit him. Damn lactose intolerance. He became aware that Sam was still saying something, and despite his best efforts, he automatically tuned back in.
"- going to do with it, Dean?"
He pulled himself together. "We're gonna give the truck back to the guy. Betcha he's still trying to figure out what happened to it."
"Not the truck, the pukwudgie!"
"Oh." Dean tried to remember what the next step of his plan had been, but drew a blank. Since when had Sam left all the planning to him anyway? "Go check on it. It should be powerless now that it's been kept cold for about an hour."
"You -" Sam started before giving up, getting up, and stalking over to the freezer compartment. "I think it's sleeping."
Dean pulled over and got up to investigate. The puk was curled up on itself like a baby, but its outsize nose and ears made it look like a hibernating old man. It was still clutching the end of the cone in its fingers, and it had a strip of the paper wrapping caught in its teeth. "You know, Sam, it wasn't a poltergeist or a dryad or goddamn bugs causing all of those injuries at the construction site. It was just a little guy, fighting for his home."
"Why are you whispering?" Sam asked loudly, and Dean smacked him upside the head instead of searching for an answer that wasn't about letting the little guy sleep.
"All I'm saying is, a puk wouldn't have bothered anybody that didn't bother it first."
"Dean, your car has its own part of the pie on the graphs that depict gasoline usage in North America! You are the last person who should be getting all 'up with the environment.'"
"Yeah, well, I'm having a real Lorax moment," Dean shrugged, and closed the compartment lid. He hopped up on top of it. "Your turn to drive."
Dean handed the thawing puk over to Sam, who used his freakish height to position it in a comfortable-looking crook of a tree branch. It chittered softly as they walked away, and Dean figured it approved of its new home, a forest on private property, that couldn't be bulldozed away.
They walked back to the Impala, parked a few blocks away. Dean got in and the music started up with the engine, "Back in Black" washing away the memory of that godawful jingle.
He looked over at Sam and smiled, and after an insincere-looking eyeroll, Sam smiled back. Yeah, everyone deserved a home.