Hey, even if you hated 'Receding', check out the other stories she's got set up. I'm sure there's something else to dig around there! :D
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Rating: PG - teen!chester - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: John explains important life lessons & Dean does his best to pretend to care.
“You know what’s wrong with kids today?”
Dean never quite knew what to do when his father directly sought out an opinion. It was much like overhearing the very elderly allude to an active sex life or seeing a badly drawn tattoo on a really pretty girl. It was about as troubling as it was intriguing.
Confounding was a word he’d use too. Especially now, when he couldn’t maintain a solid coherent thought even if someone ordered one with a pistol resting between his teeth.
Dean had been fighting off a nice sweet doze for about an hour. Every time sleep briefly succeeded something unpleasant would happen. Jerking back awake, he would either crack the side of his head on the passenger window or the seatbelt would efficiently throttle him the farther he slid down into his seat. Letting his enormous yawn right on out he thought about rolling down the glass and just hanging out there in that frosty stuff splattering down from that late October sky. The high school he’d been forced to attend on a timely basis didn’t smile upon his habit of napping right through homeroom and onwards until a lunch bell rang. With no snooze time to be had, his entire sleeping schedule had been completely jacked to hell. How was a guy supposed to stay up all night if he couldn’t get in a solid eight hours at his desk?
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with kids today.”
There was some relief as it all swiftly shifted into the rhetorical. He didn’t have many thoughts to share on what was wrong with kids these days anyway. More importantly, he’d rather repeatedly slam his hand in the glove box than have to hear one more word about the youthful miscreants that his dad was convinced had written on the unattended parked car. Dean had actually thought the suggestive yet bold declaration of ‘I’M A DIRTY GIRL’ in an inch deep worth of road dirt was as funny as it was appropriate. Considering the last time the thing had seen a good power washing, any lame graffiti on the dusty windows seemed like fair game. Although, Dean would readily admit that Sammy hadn’t mellowed the mood much by helpfully crossing out the word ‘DIRTY’.
“Nothin’ is expected these days.” His father explained. “No one has to wake up and get milkin’ any cows.”
Automatically noting the next passing exit number with the memorized map, Dean’s brows rose skeptically. He was pretty sure the only thing his old man had ever accomplished with a cow was to eat one with a lot of barbecue sauce.
“But when I was a kid?” He said. “You could be a kid.”
His dad’s belligerent brand of wistful wasn’t the magical healing emotion Dean thought he’d be seeing on a Hallmark commercial any time soon. But his old man didn’t often begin random rants about how good things were way back when. It was usually a lot of the opposite. School was 100 miles straight up a hill in the snow and all that kind of insurmountable bullshit. Dean always got a few phrases of ‘just how lucky he was’ whenever the car keys were thrown at his head. Every now and then a ‘when I was your age I never even got to drive’ snuck in. Dean didn’t use those moments to point out that he hadn’t started driving out of an urgent need to get himself to the groovy cool dairy queen. He distinctly remembered the evening his dad had noticed that someone else around here had finally gotten long enough to hit the gas and use the rear view at the same time. Quite suddenly, most of the nights they spent stopped at motels were now just a pull over in a rest stop to switch seats.
“Are you listenin’ to me?”
“Yes, sir.” Dean yawned.
But it wasn’t like he ever minded logging time behind the wheel. It sure as hell beat the slow agonizing death of riding shotgun when you’d been out on the road for a few weeks in a row. Dean looked over his shoulder at the unconscious sprawl of his ten year old brother. Sam was arrayed across the back like a tragic religious figure. Deep within a stage four delta coma, the kid was drooling peacefully despite the blast of the radio, passing sirens and several lumpy duffels shoved under his body.
“Kids these days?” His father continued with a shake of his head. “They can’t even go out there and make a decent prank call.”
Dean looked doubtfully over at his dad. The old guy had lost him on that one.
“How are you goin’ go ask some old lady if her refrigerator is running?” The demand came with a pound on the wheel. “She’ll have caller ID on your ass and some police snipers on the roof before you can even hang up the damn phone!”
Sometimes if Dean repeated stuff out loud to himself it would eventually make sense. Like all that old language that looked a lot different than it sounded. He tried doing it softly now under the cloak of the music but got no satisfying revelation. Maybe it was some old joke from the Marines? He was about to give up and just ask his parent why you’d go asking some broad on the phone about her fridge but he was pleasantly distracted. A previously undisclosed can of coke had rolled out from under the seat and bumped into his foot. Cracking it open, he slurped the foam that fizzed noisily out over the rim.
“There’s no outlet these days.” His father grumbled. “I was just a few years older than you and I was sent to war. That got all that other nonsense out of my head real quick.”
If a good rant warranted something particularly profound, than it was time to bust out the war tales. Dean liked those a lot better especially because after a decade of the same tragic punch lines his dad had gradually recognized the need to start getting creative. Dean never questioned when the additions and embellishments began to appear here and there. Sometimes the monsoon had some extra killer snakes in it. Other times the Mormon kid from Iowa would get a raging case of syphilis. The variations usually shifted to accommodate whatever point his father was determined to make at the moment. Dean didn’t care much if the Mormon had ever taken any of the various bullets his father said he had out in that jungle. Sometimes he wasn’t even sure if the doomed soldier had even existed at all. He just knew that he appreciated some relevancy even if it meant smearing around a few facts.
“War taught me how to be a man.”
Dean nodded absently with the expected propriety.
He'd heard the spiel before but he wasn’t completely sure how all the horrifically awesome stories he’d been solemnly entrusted with would be of any help on that all–important mission. Everything from that part of his father’s life was like some brutal guidebook to transform a kid into the coveted existence that lay beyond boyhood. But all the morals to his dad’s oversea adventures seemed to usually end with only two very basic concepts:
-Get out of whatever shit storm you’re currently involved in as intact as possible.
-While you are trying to do that, also somehow avoid a bunch of diseases that will rot your junk off.
Dean thoughtfully considered the simplicity.
Maybe that was all there really was to the key of true adulthood? Accidentally disassembling the entire mystery all into more manageable terms, Dean felt a bewildered sense of ease in the straightforward logic. Closing his eyes, he did his repeat trick again but this time so he could remember it long enough to tell Sammy later on. But his father disrupted the precarious fleeting phraseology with the unfinished emblematic lecture from nowhere. Vaguely, Dean wondered if they were even still discussing the teened whomevers that had audaciously defaced the car.
“Discipline. Strength. Character.” He continued. “The corps is how I learned to go about properly ventin’ my dissatisfaction with the world.”
All the venting Dean had ever been aware of was with some flamethrowers incinerating every Vietcong village to be found across the countryside. But sure, why not? That appeared like a pretty decent method to go around working out that whole dissatisfaction thing. His dad always kept saying he had been about Dean’s age when he’d been handed some loaded guns and told to fire at will. Dean had been witness to enough mindless riots in school cafeterias out in peaceful suburbia to know how that stuff worked out. What did all those wise adults passing out hand grenades to bored angry kids expect? A little jealous, he shifted back in his seat wishing he’d had some similar chaotic landscape to briefly lose his mind in. In fact, the idea of it had never seemed quite so appealing at it did at that very moment.
“Maybe I’ll join the marines.”
Dean admired the offhanded way he'd announced it. It sounded confident and a little badass. Expecting some kind of answer, he was surprised to see his father now firmly gripping the wheel and staring hard straight ahead.
It was well known that his father’s lack of a response was usually not a good sign. But after all these years of glorious talk of the corps he never thought a statement like that would set that cold look down over his dad’s face. Actually, Dean had always been kind of afraid to say anything like it before. He always thought it would be followed by a hard shove out the door at the next bus depot in about as much time as it took to wish him luck with boot camp. The engine strained and hitched, suddenly pressing Dean back into his seat as the car kicked up a few gears over the three digit mark.
The other fine indicator of his father’s displeasure was the steady dramatic increase in irrational speed.
Dean swallowed nervously as he saw them fast approaching a gigantic pothole in the freeway’s asphalt. There was the small hope that his dad might swerve into oncoming traffic or even ride the emergency lane to avoid it. Involuntarily gripping his door, he knew there would be no brake application no matter how many miles per hour they were currently roaring past the speed limit. Wincing on the car’s behalf, Dean felt the tires sickeningly dip right into the minor abyss. Hearing Sam make full contact with the ceiling due to some recently damaged shocks, Dean tried to use his arms to catch the majority of what came crashing off the dashboard with the jarring return to earth. Saving his coke and a loose bag of combos, he considered his effort a success.
“I’ll get coffee.” His dad said shortly as he decelerated down a ramp towards a gas station. “You got it until we hit Montana.”
“Yes, sir.” Dean found a weak grin. “Unless, you know, I go enlist first—“
The livid look his dad shot him as he slammed the door closed made Dean quickly shut his trap. Geeze. So much for wanting to be all he could be. Watching his father walk angrily into the brightly lit store, he wondered how great all that marine stuff must have actually been after all.
Dean slid into the driver's side and yanked at the lever under his knees until he could work the bench up where he needed it. From the backseat, there was a small dazed groan from far under the rearranged pile of unwieldy duffels. Everything that had been on the seat was now firmly packed on the floor, wedged soundly down in the wheel wells. Dean leaned over to get the one filled with particularly heavy munitions off his brother’s face. There was a half awake friendly wave, a wide yawn and then a shoulder as Sam settled back over into a better position to continue his interrupted slumber.
The sight of the blissful relaxation brought a pleased smile to Dean’s face. That annoying carefree business wasn’t going to last much longer. No way. The rate Sammy’s legs were going at it, the driving duty was going to get split up three ways sooner or later. Then they’d see who’d get to pass out 34 hours a day catching up on beauty sleep while someone else had to hear about refrigerators and all that other crap. Dean tilted each mirror until everything was just like he wanted it. But a glance in the adjusted rearview made his smile falter. He knew this could become more than the slightly tiring task it already was.
The next 400 miles could be a lot worse than choking down enhanced caffeine products and being forced to listen to what a searing rash of gonorrhea could achieve in an entire port city of partying jarheads. His father’s vivid disturbing recall of STD symptoms and some thudding killer stimulant headaches he could handle. But Dean’s gaze traveled worriedly to the tape collection on the floor which under current driving regulations were now completely under his father’s jurisdiction.
Some shit you couldn’t tune out even if your life depended on it.
Like a five hour righteous Billy Joel sing along.