The Southernaire was the typical armpit of a motel that both Winchesters were far too familiar with. All on one level, peeling paint, a pool that was nothing more than a rain-filled breeding ground for mosquitos, and bonus – it was facing noisy US Highway 64. But the rates were dirt cheap, they didn't ask for ID, and they had free HBO. Home sweet home.
Sam parked the Impala in the space closest to their room and looped his three plastic Wal Mart grocery bags around the wrist on his good arm before snatching up the case of cheap beer he'd bought. They were basically going to be shut-ins for the next couple of days, so they had to have some supplies.
Sam only had one good arm, because his shoulder had recently been popped back into its socket. Their last job had been a particularly painful one in a very literal way. The two of them had put down a poltergeist, and a very pissed-off one at that. The dearly departed Evelyn Ledford was less than thrilled that a couple of stoners had opened a head shop in the historic building that once held her dress shop. Lucky for them, the lady had been cremated, which resulted in them having to track down a lock of baby hair that her great great-niece had tucked away in a box of family heirlooms. But the owners of the head shop had been grateful and had even offered payment, which was a rarity. Usually they were lucky if no one called the cops. Problem was, the payment was not in the form of desperately needed cash. The payment was a half-ounce of weed and a gigantic glass bong. His brother seemed to think Christmas had come early.
They'd stumbled upon the job when they drifted south after the ordeal with the shtriga. Dean had claimed that he was just hoping for a break from the still winter-like weather that gripped Wisconsin in early April, but Sam knew the truth. He'd overheard parts of the 'secret' phone conversation his brother had with Caleb when he thought Sam was sleeping. It turned out that Dad had been spotted in the southeast. A place called Bat Cave, North Carolina to be specific. And god was Sam tired of all the Batman references.
When they'd first headed that way, he was overwhelmed by old resentments. He thought it was just more stupid, pointless secret-keeping, but the thing with the shtriga had given Sam a new perspective. Now he suspected that Dean wasn't just being an arrogant, controlling jerk who wanted to hold all the cards. Maybe this had more to do with shielding Sam from disappointment, because, more than likely, Dad would be long gone by the time they got there and he probably wouldn't leave a trail either.
Apparently it was Dean's job to make sure that a grown, twenty-two-year-old man didn't get too sad when they, yet again, failed to find his daddy. In some ways that was just as frustrating as the idea of Dean being a bossy control freak (which Sam was still convinced he was). Truth was, he wasn't sure if he was more aggravated with Dean or with Dad when it came down to it. After all, Dad was the one who'd put all these ideas in Dean's head, but yet he couldn't help but want to strangle Dean for not even questioning any of it. Dude actually believed that every child that the shtriga had killed over the past fifteen years was his personal responsibility, and he even got pissed if you tried to reason with him. How fucked up was that?
As evidence of his frustration, Sam kicked the Impala's door shut with more force than intended. Hopefully Dean was too busy with his new toy to be peeking out of the window, because he'd definitely be pissed about that and Sam would never hear the end of it. But, the aroma that met him the moment he stepped out of the car pretty much confirmed that Dean was otherwise occupied. The skunky smell of what Dean called 'primo hydro' was almost overwhelming even in the parking lot. Dammit! They were going to end up in jail before they checked out of this place.
After awkwardly balancing the case of beer on his hip, Sam finally managed to get the finicky key to turn the lock and was met by a cloud of smoke when the door swung open.
"Hey Sammy," Dean greeted with a grin that was a little too enthusiastic for their situation and the glum surroundings.
His brother was sitting at the room's small two-person table with one of his legs propped up on the second chair. He'd had to stay behind when Sam went to the store, since he was only wearing a pair of boxer briefs and a t-shirt. That was due to the fact that his knee was black and blue and swollen up like a balloon. All thanks to sweet old Evelyn throwing him across a room.
"What didja get?" he asked, still wearing the goofy grin that was obviously a direct result of the bong he had sitting close by his side.
Sam shook his head and huffed a laugh at his brother's heavy lidded, red-rimmed eyes. After dumping the bags on the table, he headed to the small fridge to stow the beer away. "You'll be impressed. I almost scored a Wally World straight flush. Just about everything I bought is Great Value brand. There's Great Value ibuprofen, Great Value peanut butter, bread, bologna, chips, and some other crap. Apparently, the only thing they don't make is beer," he explained, holding up the case of Schlitz.
Dean didn't seem to be listening to him though, he was busy rifling through the bags for himself. "Dude! There's pie! Apple crumb. Definitely one of your finer pies," he added with actual reverence in his tone.
"Oh yeah. Forgot about that. It was on the bakery clearance rack. Guess it's a few days old. Probably still good though."
"Hell yeah it's still good! Get me a fork, Sammy," he ordered. "I need to test this baby out."
"Get it yourself, jerk. There's a box of Great Value plastic silverware in there somewhere. Just make sure you save some for me. I'm the one who braved Wal Mart on a Saturday afternoon."
Dean looked up at him and grinned in that lopsided, mischievous way that always meant he'd come up with something Sam probably wasn't going to like very much.
"Don't think so, dude. You won't properly appreciate it."
"What do you mean - I won't properly appreciate it? It's discounted pie, Cheech. It's not fine wine."
"See, that's why you don't get any. It's exactly like fine wine, 'cept better. Especially if you're in the right frame of mind," he added as he held up the plastic baggie full of pot and wiggled it back and forth. "Only way you're getting any is if you burn down with me. Come on, Sammy. One bowl. It won't kill you. Don't tell me you're still a virgin. Surely you lived a little in college."
Sam snorted. "No, Dean, I'm not still a virgin. I just don't want to. That crap makes me paranoid and I'd rather be straight when the cops haul our asses to jail for possession."
"The cops ain't haulin' us anywhere. Dude, nobody cares. This is the no-tell motel. I went to get ice while you were gone, and saw two working girls and somebody selling crack in the parking lot. Trust me. Nobody cares if two fine, upstanding young men such as ourselves want to sit here and get stoned while we eat some pie. We're quiet and we paid for the room upfront. That makes us the best guests this place has ever seen. Besides, it's less than an ounce, dude. That's misdemeanor crap. We have an illegal arsenal that would give the Homeland Security guys the biggest boner of their lives, and you're worried about a little weed? Priorities, Sam."
"Yeah… well…. Just so you know. It doesn't matter if it's less than a half ounce. In some states, it's automatic felony possession if they catch you with a weapon too. And guess what? We've got weapons."
Dean shrugged and started to take another hit off the bong. "Thanks Matlock. You've saved me from a life of crime."
While his brother was occupied Sam reached for the pie, but Dean grabbed his wrist in a vice-like grip before he could make his escape with it. Too bad stoner-Dean still had excellent reflexes.
"Nope," Dean squeaked out. He was obviously trying hard to hold the smoke in as he talked, but a little still escaped from his lips. "You gotta partake first."
"Screw you, Dean. I do not. Why are you so determined to get me high anyway?"
"Because it'll be fun," he said as he exhaled a giant cloud of smoke and took a second or two to cough before continuing, "Besides man, I don't wanna get stoned alone. I think that makes me an alcoholic or somethin'."
Sam laughed. "You're fried. That doesn't even make sense."
"Bet it'd make sense if you were stoned too. Come on, Sammy," he pleaded. "Just one bowl. What else are we gonna do? We are kinda stuck here for a few days."
"Fine," Sam relented. Maybe Dean would be less annoying if he was stoned too. It was a lot like hanging out with a drunk when you weren't drinking. It got old fast.
Sam was pretty sure a significant piece of his lung had come up with this last bout of coughing. How the hell had he gotten himself roped into this?
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean said as he slapped him on the back a few times. "If you don't cough, you don't get off."
"Dean, where the hell do you come up with these gems?"
"It's the lore, dude. Lore of the bong. Listen up and you might learn something."
Sam started giggling uncontrollably, even though part of him realized it wasn't actually that funny. Everything just seemed so surreal. The tacky, bright yellow comforters suddenly seemed oddly beautiful and the generic landscape painting that was bolted to the wall was completely fascinating. He could actually see the individual blades of grass.
"Man, Dean… that dude was an artist!" he exclaimed as he pointed to the painting. "It's frickin amazing! How does somebody do that?"
Dean regarded the painting seriously for a moment and then nodded his head in agreement. "Dunno, Sam. Some people just have talent. Too bad it's bolted down. Bet we could take it to one of those Antique Roadshow things and find out how much it's worth. We could probably make a killing."
"You watch that show?" Sam giggled. "Man, I'm so giving you hell for that."
"Hey! It's a good show and it's historical. Once, me and Dad even spotted a cursed object on there. This weird stuffed monkey head. Friggin ugly-assed bastard appraised for almost two grand! Can you believe that shit? We had to track it down and everything."
Sam made a face and decided he did not want to know what a cursed, stuffed monkey head was capable of, much less why someone would want to pay $2000 for one. "Weird. People are weird. Man, why are people so weird?" he asked with genuine curiosity. "Seriously, what is up with people?"
"They're civilians," Dean answered him with a shrug as he concentrated on flipping through the limited number of cable channels that were available. "Check it out, Sam. Ren and Stimpy. You remember that show? You used to love it."
"Yeah, because I was ten. It's just a bunch of toilet humor, Dean. There has to be something better on."
"Nope. We're watching this. It's the one where they go to space and that little rat eats a bar of soap. Friggin hilarious! It's a classic."
"It's a dog, Dean. Not a rat."
"Says you. If it's a dog, then how come the cat's so much bigger?"
"Whatever. Fine. It's a rat then. Obviously you're the expert on cartoon animals."
Sam didn't feel like arguing with Dean at the moment. Something was bugging him. Actually, a lot was bugging him. The TV seemed way too loud, but yet he could still hear the hum of the refrigerator, and the TV from next door. Plus, there were some people walking by outside their window. They were discussing the high cost of gasoline and Sam could hear every word. It was an innocent and common enough topic of conversation, but something seemed sinister about it. Sam had a suspicion that it was all just code talk for something else. Something that clearly had everything to do with him. Then a loud motorcycle engine started up in the parking lot and he almost pissed himself.
"Jesus Christ! What the hell was that?"
Dean giggled and Sam seriously considered punching him. Didn't he realize this was serious business? Something heavy was about to go down here and they needed to be ready. But no! His idiot brother had decided to start singing. Then he recognized the tune and got even angrier, or maybe he was just embarrassed. Dean was singing Black Sabbath's Paranoid.
"Dammit, Dean! It's not funny! I told you this stuff messed with my head."
The laughter just got louder. "Okay, fine. Unbunch your panties. I'll take care of it."
Sam winced as his brother pushed himself off the edge of the bed where they'd settled in to watch TV. It was painful just to watch him hobble ten feet across the room on that leg.
"Man, Dean… What are you doing?" he asked in somewhat panicked exasperation. He was aware that the situation wasn't quite as desperate as he seemed to think it was, but he couldn't make himself act normal, no matter how hard he tried.
"I told you I was taking care of it," his brother groaned. "Just give me a minute." He unzipped his duffel and produced a large container of salt which he used to salt the front door and the sill of the large picture window. Sam felt like he should get up and help, but the logistics of doing that somehow seemed to be extremely complicated. It was probably safer if he stayed where he was.
Finally, after what seemed like a year of pained hobbling around, Dean wedged the back of one of the chairs under the door, double checked the dead bolt, and then limped over toward the little table. Sam was struck with a whopping dose of déjà vu. This scene, right down to what was playing on TV, seemed to be a rerun from his childhood. He really did feel like he was ten again and stuck alone in a crappy hotel room with an older brother who seemed determined to boss him around and make their room into Fort Knox. He also remembered how annoying that was. But this time, as stupid as it was, he was really glad Dean was taking all these 'precautions'. Maybe it was mostly the weed, but he was starting to see his brother in a new light. He was one goofy, pain in his ass, but he did take his responsibilities seriously. And as insane as it sometimes drove him, Sam was one of those responsibilities.
"Here you go, Sammy," Dean said, breaking him out of his thoughts by shoving a paper plate with a slice of pie on it under his nose. "Eat your pie. You'll feel better."
"Thanks. It's kinda weird. I just realized that I'm starving."
"Me too," Dean agreed as he sat down on the edge of the bed and started shoveling pie into his mouth…. from the pie plate itself. Apparently his 'piece' was everything but the little slice he'd cut for Sam.
"Dude! That's not fair!"
"Yeah it is," Dean mumbled through a mouthful of pie. "It's totally fair. I'm older."
"So, it means I get all the pie. It's the rules of the highway, Sammy," he smirked, making air quotes as he said the word 'high' and then pausing to shove another big forkful into his already-full mouth. "I don't make these things up. You need to do your homework."