Folks, doing laundry can be a potentially life-threatening undertaking...if you are Sam and Dean Winchester. Don't believe me? Then please read on. :)
This fic was inspired by a painting done by Petite-Madame. Just Google search that name with "Laundry" and you'll get a nice illustration for the end of this fic. I am pretty sure this is the only time that "Skeletons" "Zombies" and "Slice of Life" can be used as tags in the same story.
Narrator: "There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Supernatural Zone."
It's been six months since Sam rejoined Dean, hunting the supernatural, following a trail across America left by John Winchester. It's been weird living together again in motels. Weird but familiar, and without their father, even somewhat comfortable (though neither will admit this). Currently, they are en route to a city in a state 15 hours away. They have stopped in an unremarkable town for the night, and as Dean has run out of underwear, they hit the town's only laundromat.
It's not exciting, but it is necessary. The boys pack light, and one can only re-wear the same pair of Levis so many times before someone (Sam) must mention the funk. Fewer days if they encounter a fall into a river or become covered with blood and monster juice of various persuasions.
There is a laundry structure. An easy structure. Ideally, Sam prefers to do laundry before they leave a place, so he can pack fresh. Dean checks out, gasses the Impala, and buys beef jerky and porn at the local convenience store. If they have to leave a place quickly (and sometimes they do) Dean checks into the next motel and buys beer and Sam does the laundry. It works out well because Sam doesn't like the way Dean does laundry, and Dean cannot stand to simply sit and wait for things.
But the one motel in this unremarkable town is discovered to be closed (everything, in fact, seemed closed except for the laundromat) and Dean still has half a case of beer left in the trunk of the Impala. So there is nothing to do but "help" with the laundry.
Sam carefully inspects a washer. He reaches in to fish out a sock left behind. When he reemerges, he instinctively checks on Dean.
Dean is quickly dumping his duffle of clothes into an uninspected washer next to him. The whole thing.
"Dean!" Sam puts a hand on Dean's arm and Dean freezes, but he knows what is coming next. In truth, he had hoped to get all of the clothes into the washer before Sam noticed.
Dean rolls his eyes and sighs. This has happened before, which is why there is a laundry structure.
"Clothes, Sam. Emotionless pieces of cloth."
"Dean, you can't just...toss all the colors and whites together." Sam is exasperated. He begins the process of removing socks from the washer and dropping them into the one he has just checked.
"Hey, hey!" Dean grabs his clothes from Sam's hand as Sam pulls out a pair of tighty whities. Those are always the last clean pair. It's how Dean knows he's got one day left. And Sam knows it too.
Sam looks up.
Their eyes meet.
"Hey, I told you yesterday we had to stop for laundry." Dean.
"Dean, that's just gross." Sam makes a face and then considers. "Not to mention...painful. Doesn't that chafe?"
Dean shrugs and clears his throat, hastily attempting to correct his color blunder unaided, indignantly. "Probably less than you'd think."
Sam is aghast.
"Dean, before I came back, how often did you just..." he gestures with one hand, a kind of tumbling motion to indicate that Dean should complete the thought himself because it was too heinous to say aloud.
"Go commando?" Dean stops and just faces the issue.
Sam gives him The Look.
"Listen, I've been dressing myself for years, and we're not having an underwear conversation. End of story."
Sam suddenly looks around. Dean blinks and then catches on. It's a conversation about Winchester underwear in a public place.
But the place is empty. Completely empty. Very silent, even.
This means something different for each brother.
"I'm getting a beer from the car," Dean declares.
"Good. You suck at this," Sam replies.
The structure is out of joint, but the laundry is getting done. Dean has worked himself through two beers, read and reread the newspaper from the city in their future with the case. Two industrial driers now spin lazily.
Sam leans over a washer. He rests his chin on his hand, and he stares at the whites tumbling together and the colors tumbling together. Up and over. Around and around. Dean is quiet. The electric thrum is peaceful. The clothes are blurs through mist-paned glass. Hypnotic.
Sam thinks about the past and the present and the future as he watches the rhythmic pulse of drying clothes. Just like them, he feels he has been here before. That he fell into it, and now he will roll over and over and over, be tested, tempered, as the Hanes socks accept the blowing heat. Over and over. Back and forth. Dean and Dad and Sam and the road. One bed to the next. One case to the next. One laundromat to the next. The sound of quarters dropping into a metallic pan. The fall of a Coke from a soda dispensing machine to a waiting 10-year-old . The archaic assault of tinny arcade music. Human beings who crowd together silently, hiding their private lives in washing machines and dryers. Over and over...
"What the hell?" Dean.
"Sammy, look at this." Dean again.
Sam blinks his eyes, shaking off the extended metaphor. He stands up and turns around. Dean appears overly puzzled at something in the paper he is reading.
Sam is on guard as Dean looks at him pointedly and then indicates the newspaper. It is not the one with the case, the one they brought from the other place.
"What is it?" Sam walks over and looks down.
"This is the local paper. I think. I guess."
"Read this headline." Dean turns the paper around.
The headline reads "Armed Humans Discovered in Local Laundromat."
Sam blinks. There is silence except for the dryers.
"Wait, what?" Sam grabs the paper and begins to read the article while Dean stands up slowly. Nervously. He reaches inside his jacket to his holster to feel the comforting presence of his .45.
The article warns the inhabitants of the unremarkable town that two human males are currently doing their laundry at a local laundromat. They are armed and considered dangerous. Everyone should stay inside and lock their doors.
"Is this a..." But Sam cannot say "joke" because it's simply too absurd. And it's absurd that he is reading this article because it should not exist. He looks up and around for security cameras, but it still does not make sense. Even if they were being monitored, there is clearly no way an entire newspaper could have been printed and delivered while they were doing their laundry.
"Armed humans, Sam. Why say that?"
"Dean. Why say any of it? This doesn't make any sense. It's impo-"
"Sammy, tell me you have your gun on you."
Sam looks at Dean. Dean has his gun out and he is aiming for the door. He has that face on-that "Big Brother Means Business" face. It's an expression that can never be confused with anything else to a little brother: It means there is real danger.
Instinctively, Sam drops the paper and goes for his own weapon as the first skeleton crashes through the door.
Dean shoots the lunging skeleton square in the head. Twin stars of red in its eyes go out and Dean turns slightly to kick it in the sternum. It clatters backwards against the metal frame of the door and is still.
Sam stares at it, his eyes wide, his breath in huge gulps because what the shit is happening?
Two more skeletons barrel through the door. Sam feels a bony collar bone ram him in the stomach, and then finger bones, like a vise, grab his neck and squeeze.
"Sammy!" Sam hears shots as his vision becomes dark with tiny pinpricks of light. He gasps for air...and then there is a crunch and clatter. Pieces of skull drop onto his face as Dean pulls the butt of his gun from it. Sam has barely a second to breathe before he sees something wet, something juicier, reach for Dean's back, Dean's head, mouth open.
Sam fires at point blank range almost in Dean's ear. The report startles Dean; he turns to see a zombie slump to the ground behind him.
"You've gotta be kidding me. Skeletons and zombies?" He looks at Sam whose face demonstrates that he is having a difficult time with this unique warp of the reality he has studied for so long and come to understand to a degree. Hunting hasn't been Sammy's thing in a while, but it wasn't just that. The newspaper proved it. Hell, even for Dean this was straight up weird.
"Hey, Sammy." He claps him on the shoulder, trying to shake him loose. "That was a good shot." Sam doesn't immediately respond. He's clearly still futilely trying to make sense of it. But there is no sense to make. Dean hits him harder, grounding him. "You with me here?"
Sam takes a deep breath and stands up.
"Is this...a dream?"
Dean shrugs, "If it is, then we are in it together. We are in it together, right?"
Sam looks at Dean. The tumbling dryer. He wets his lips and primes his gun. He nods once to Dean and his eyes are set. Dean thinks, those are good eyes. That's my Sammy.
Dean grimly turns around again to face the door. "I think we might be in a little trouble here..."
Three more skeletons and two more zombies bum rush the Winchesters. Unfortunately for them, Winchesters adapt quickly to an environment. Surprise them once, shame on them. Surprise them twice...
...Well, there was no surprising them twice.
The ensuing battle is like a choreographed movie scene. The laundromat becomes a war zone, and anything not tied down becomes a potential bludgeoning weapon. Sam slams a clothes cart into one, pinning it against a drying table so he can get off a head shot. Goopy stale zombie blood makes the drying table something of an ironic butcher's table. Dean sprints from a skeleton, slides to a stop, and then opens a dryer door just as the skeleton runs into it, throwing it to the ground. Sam jumps over a set of washers, Olympic-athlete style, and lands on its skull, fragmenting it. Dean reaches into the ruined mass for an arm bone with attached hand, which he then uses to bitch slap another zombie. While it recovers, Sam aims and fires...
Ten minutes later, it's over. Frankly they should have run for the car, but almost all of their worldly belongings are in this laundromat. Including Dean's tighty whiteys. That's not something one can simply leave behind. It has history. Dean and Sam both know it, though they will never admit it.
Sam slumps to the ground, leaning against his brother. He takes deep breaths. Dean steadily loads another clip into his .45, just to be safe. It's quiet again except for the gentle electric hum of the dryer where Sam and Dean's clothes tumble, blissfully unaware of the bloody mess outside of their hot and windy confines.
"You okay?" Dean sees no movement from the door. It's eerily nice in here despite the blood stains.
Sam glances down at the torso of a skeleton next to him. He props a foot on the laundry basket he had used to take it out with.
"Dean...where the hell are we?"
Dean surveys the carnage. He recalls the newspaper.
"You got me. The Twilight Zone?"
The electric hum stops. The whites and colored clothes cease their endless turning and lay still. Laundry Day is officially over.
"I need a beer," Sam says.
Dean smiles. He claps his little brother on the shoulder. They did good work. Of course, now they are covered in zombie sludge and bone fragments...but those clothes can be washed in some other unremarkable town on some other laundry day.