Title: Third Party
Rating: PG - teen!chesters - Gen
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Dean likes some good quality family time even if said family doesn't.
There were three sure fire signs that his father was in a good mood.
Dean flipped the rolodex-like menu by the napkins and perused the descriptions of retarded novelty drinks. They were in shocking candy colors and slushy variations that he wasn’t sure were meant for the bar’s regular kind of patron. The row of disgruntled truckers that lined the bar didn’t seem like the kind of guys that were looking to let their hair down at the end of a hard long week. After a 72 hour haul through Canada with a load of terrified cows in the back, no one here was about to declare that they were going to go ahead and order that Appletini no matter what it did to their thighs.
The first sign of his dad’s high spirits was easy to recognize.
They had actually left the house.
Usually when a job was over, there was an exhausted blackout until everything went right back to business. But from time to time, if a gig went really well, his dad announced they were going to make an appearance out in civilization. Getting out of the run down rental unto itself wasn’t a large deal. Dean tended to make himself scarce unless he happened to be sleeping. However, not only had their dad personally herded them to the car to make sure they couldn’t make a break for it, they were headed out into the world with no function other than simple recreation. Dean watched Sam wince when a very pretty, but extremely wasted woman made loud contact face first into the pull, not push doors.
If you really wanted to call a dump like this civilization.
Dean prided himself on a lot of things but a dazzling array of lofty standards wasn’t one of them. Shifting around in the stiff wood chair, he wondered how much longer the massive man in the camouflage army jacket was going to keep guarding the jukebox. Ever since they had walked in, the guy had been monopolizing the machine to create his personal Crosby, Stills, & Nash reunion tour. Unfortunately for the captive audience, the concert only played the same song over and over again.
But nonetheless, the sight of a loud crowd always brought a smile to Dean’s face. Other people’s noise made him feel like he could settle down and make some of his own if he wanted. It was even better these days now that they could sit down in one of these places without getting the eye from any of the employees. Sammy had been stupidly tall ever since he’d cracked puberty but a little personal neglect of the dog mange that grew on his face had lent him a little more age than he actually owned. If the kid didn’t open his mouth, both of them might get served without even trying to flash their fake IDs. Although, one look at the harried woman that appeared with a tray made Dean think they could score some shots of Wild Turkey whether she knew Sam was fifteen or not.
“You boys wanna start with a few pitchers of Bud?” The waitress assumed.
“I’ll take a Heineken.” His dad said. “They’re drinking soda.”
Dean caught his brother giving him a look from across the table.
Bottled beer. One of those fancy Dutch imports even. Sign number two of an elevated mood.
Their father never drank the good stuff unless he was really riding a high. The staunch practice of frugality was a lifestyle that rarely wavered from a steady stream of generic brands to nothing at all. There was no family motto regarding the dismissal of the finer things to be had in life, but if Dean was ever asked to make one for the Winchester Company letterhead, he had a pretty good idea of what it might be. Whatever the hell gets you there!
Speaking of getting there, Dean looked forlornly at the cheap foamy crap dripping from the tap. He knew that their father wasn’t particularly concerned about his sons participating in causal underage drinking. It was one of the many sets of the land’s laws that didn’t make sense within their own universe. As long as no one was taking their shirt off and driving the car into a brick wall, a beer every now and then had been long ago deemed allowable. However, the ordering of the sophisticated green bottle had made it immediately clear that all bonus funds available were now dedicated to a few more of the same. The money left over was confined to anything his boys wanted deep fried and served up in a plastic red basket.
The jukebox finally hitched into another song. Same band but at least it was from a different album. Gnawing on a straw, Dean’s gaze was broken from the mesmerizing blink of broken Christmas lights decorating the bathroom doors. Most of the room also turned guardedly at the rowdy group that almost crashed through the front entrance.
“Think I saw that guy before.” His dad noted. “On a county wanted list for homicide.”
Dean was never quite sure when his old man was kidding or not.
Since they’d been kids their father had brought them into joints like this at midnight like it was a Denny’s on a Sunday morning. Dean had learned to sit on the outside of the table where his view was unobstructed. From that angle he could see everyone around and exactly what they were doing. Although his father never was short on cautionary tales about the pitfalls of being in the proximity of their fellow man, Dean knew his dad had become practically blind to what humanity could dole out as swiftly as the flip side.
Well, not exactly blind. More like utterly removed. When his dad watched a bar brawl break out it was like watching the vague unease of a man speculating on the structural integrity of a dangerous zoo exhibit.
Even though Dean had put himself on the perimeter, the table beside them was packed as close as the rest of the place. The man behind Sam kept looking back over his shoulder in their direction. Sammy always sat about a hundred feet back from the table in a leisurely slump to stretch his legs. His brother was also completely oblivious to the mounting aggravation it caused for strangers that had to share space. Aggravation was standard when you ventured into public domain, but some brands were a little more worrisome than others. Especially the kind that might start swinging fists because someone kept making them spill their drinks.
Dean slid down and hooked his boot into Sam’s chair. With one hard and ungraceful yank, they were all suddenly sitting close and cozy like a real life family. As pleased as to be expected, Sam used his raised middle finger to suggestively scratch the center of his forehead. Dean winked back.
When their food arrived, it wasn’t completely as gross as anticipated. An unexpectedly good smell was coming off the collection of breaded items, the opaque paper in the baskets turned translucent with grease. Wondering what exactly a conch fritter was, Dean split one in half first to examine its insides before taking the plunge. Hush puppy with rubber bands in it. Not bad. Dean felt a kick under the table from his brother.
The third sign that their father was in a righteous party mode had surfaced.
Dad was on beer number four. The mysterious cut-off of three usually kept whatever buzz the man had down at appropriate levels. Another 12oz of anything didn’t seem like an amount that could change a whole night but it did plenty. The elusive fourth beer meant that at least another entire innocent six-pack wasn’t going to live to see the light of day. Anything after that and it was a steady downward spiral that started harmlessly with elaborate but badly delivered jokes. Soon after that it quickly moved into somber passages from the soul. If that ran out, Dean could always rely on the never ending stash of awesomely catastrophic war stories. When those were over it wound down to the final phase of stubborn belligerence until someone else took the keys for the ride home.
His dad slammed his bottle down and looked at his boys with a steady level gaze of a man that was about to lay down something profound.
“A man’s existence,” He stated. “...is like being in traffic.”
It looked like they would be skipping the shitty joke portion of the repertoire this evening and heading straight into philosophy.
“In this world there are rules.” He said. “Hold ups. Rights of way. But you break that flow? You mess up that pattern? Someone is gonna run you off the shoulder, get the glock out of the glove box and shoot you in the face.”
“That’s beautiful, dad.” Sam said.
Dean always thought that his brother never really had a decent appreciation for a few simple turns of phrase. So the old man wasn’t some lyrical bard? As far as Dean was concerned, the real poets had electric guitars and they talked about the road all the time. But his father was not thwarted by his youngest son’s unenthusiastic comment on the summation of the mortal coil.
“Always keep your sparkplugs clean.” His father advised. “And your muffler free of foreign objects.”
There was a moment of grave silence in which Dean assumed he was supposed to somberly absorb this wisdom. He pretended to do just that while taking a swig from his own sadly alcohol bereft beverage. People could say all they wanted about Dr. Pepper but it was truly the king of all soft drinks. Chewing on some ice, he waited while his dad thoughtfully considered what else should be imparted to his children.
“Sometimes you’ll get stuck in a jam.” He said. “But sometimes you can cruise at 120 right on through a school zone.”
Dean tentatively put a steaming mozzarella stick into his mouth, cautiously testing the magma like consistency.
“But some cop still might bust you even though it’s a school holiday and there’s no one else in sight and if you were gonna kill anybody it’d be yourself and if you really wanna wreck that’s your own damn business.”
Dean spit out molten lava cheese onto his plate. It had grafted to the roof of his mouth like a mold. He was going to feel that son of a bitch for a week. Eyeing the browned celery on the tray of buffalo wings, he decided to toss caution to the wind and go for a drumstick.
“Sometimes fuel will cost you everything.” His dad explained. “And there will be times when someone will hand you a few gallons for no charge at all.”
Biting into the miniature chicken leg, Dean immediately felt his already tortured mouth ignite with the power of one million chili peppers. Jesus H. Christ. When they said that the sauce was graded ‘nuclear’ they weren’t fucking around. He got a few strong smacks on the back when he started to choke on soothing Dr. Pepper slush.
His dad was tiredly rubbing at his eyes.
“What the hell was I saying?”
“L-Life is a highway?” Dean prompted.
“Right.” He nodded. “Now sometimes, you might have to slow down and turn off an exit. And when you have to turn off, sometimes it’s for a good reason. But sometimes it’s not.“
The table was silent once again.
Dean was patiently standing by for any more blacktop metaphors, but his father looked like he was all done. The abrupt conclusion didn’t seem like something that warranted applause or anything, so Dean just started slowly nodding in an all inclusive manner that he hoped conveyed acknowledgement. Wary of his brother’s dutiful attention, Dean watched Sam flip through the assorted fried lumps of mushrooms and zucchini. As he suspected, the lurching finish to the sage guidance left the playing field wide open for a more vocal response.
Sam even cleared his throat first so their dad wouldn’t miss any careful inflections placed in his sarcasm.
“You’ve really proposed a compelling juxtaposition of the nation’s thoroughfare opposed to the idiosyncrasies that lay in the tragedy of the human condition.“
Dean wondered if keeping your muffler free of bottles was also one of those dangers lurking on the bustling freeways of subsistence.
“Sammy, if I told you once, I’ve told you more than twice.” Their father pointed at him in sincere warning. “I don’t care for your juxtapostioning.“
“You’re the one makin’ all the juxta—“
“Hey!” Dean interrupted by calling out to the passing waitress. “Can we get another beer over here?”
Serenity descended once more as his father got back to his brew. Sam discovered a hidden pile of calamari and started shoveling it back like it might try to get away. Dean blissfully heard the jukebox pause before the cocky chords of the Stones suddenly started blaring over the speakers. Oh, hell’s yeah. Their Satanic Majesties Request. Dean decided that everything made in 1967 was just automatically fucking awesome. Most especially Pamela Anderson.
“Have I ever told you boys about the kid from my unit that lost two legs and an eye from a tripwire the VC left in the officer’s latrine?”
“Nope.” Dean grinned.
Dean ignored Sam’s groan when the often heard tale began to unfold for the thousandth time.
Grabbing up the next bottle that appeared at the table, Dean cracked it open and claimed it for himself. When his cheerful toast wasn’t returned, he clinked it anyway against his father’s drink and Sammy’s unsweetened ice tea. Chugging a mouthful down, he grimaced at the bitter liquid made from the shiniest hops and the most advantageous malted barely.
He forgot sometimes how bad a really good beer tasted.