Author: Regala Electra
Summary: These being the life lessons of two boys better known as Dean and Sam Winchester. How the boys learn that TV is good, fast food is a way of life, urban legends can either be awesome or really suck, normal isn’t what you think it’ll be, and sometimes all you need to do is drive.
Word Count: Slightly over 3,000
Author's Notes: Pre-series gen, five parts, alternating Winchester P.O.V. A story that sort of wrote itself. Featuring Wee!chesters, Teen!chesters, Hurt!Dean, Bruised!Sam, Brotherly Mischief and Dean/Impala love.
Television becomes a teacher by accident.
Yes, there's School House Rock but what Dean learns is that when he pays attention when watching television, it sinks in and he manages to snag better-than-decent grades. It doesn't always work out, especially when his banshee of a teacher accuses him of cheating. Dean thinks she's a banshee, because no one else should have that scratchy, raspy voice.
The accusations keep on flying and Ms. Ferris is nasty enough to take it to the Principal. Dean's the very picture of innocence (he cribbed that look from his brother Sam, who isn't a teacher's pet only 'cause Dean would never let him live it down) when he's sitting next to Dad in the Principal's office and he gets off with a mild warning and a “no TV” ban for an entire week.
Doesn't matter. They head off to Alabama when Dad hears of a nasty poltergeist ten days later and all Dean figures out is that he's gotta toe the line between decent and average grades and it'll be for the better. ‘Sides, he can always sneak in a movie or two while Dad’s out, so long as he make sure there’s enough time for the television set to cool down before Dad comes back.
Besides, all he ever needs to know (at least the stuff that Dad won't tell him) is shown on TV. Especially late night television. The first time Dean sees a flash of naked breast, all curves and soft, Dean mentally checks off that he must make it a point of seeing that live and up close. In the flesh. Heh.
Sam, who doesn’t yet have his brain doing all sorts of funny things to him when his thoughts turn to girls, just says, “You’re so gross, Dean,” when Dean watches a crappy movie just for the joy of seeing a half-shadowed peek at naked girl.
Dean adds another mental note to always give Sam grief once he discovers girls.
And sure, they say that television rots your brains, but Dean’s gonna make sure he won’t ever forget that little reminder.
They learn quickly which places call it pop and where you can only get a soda. In Texas, it's a coke, whether or not it's a Coke (and it's almost always a Coke in Texas).
Sam figures out that he hates mustard on burgers but doesn't mind mayo, while Dean'll take it any way they serve it. Dean has a stomach lining made of iron, Sam's sure, as he can manage to get down anything if he puts his mind to it. The only thing Dean's really sure of is that yellow mustard doesn't hold a shine to that grainy brown mustard. He stocks up on Gulden's brand whenever he's got leftover change in their food money (or he’ll swipe the little packets are left out in the open, begging to be stuffed in deep pockets). Sam tries not to make a face when Dean puts it on anything that needs a hit of mustard because he'll even put it on things that don't need it just to gross out Sam. Like fries. Or once, one of those apple pies from McDonald’s.
Sam doesn't have many food dislikes, but he hates strawberry shakes with a passion. He learns this the hard way, having ordered a large shake and then having to drink it all by himself when Dad had treated the boys to 'anything they wanted' at an old-fashioned drive-in in Long Island (they'd gotten to see the Amityville House as a special treat after a possible Rawhead sighting out in Huntington turned up nothing). It had definitely been a drive-in not drive-thru, there's a difference, and the difference is getting in a packed line that leads out of the doors, where a smell like fresh-cut French fries and seared beef and delicious wafts out, promising good food at cheap prices.
The shake had been violently pink and Dean had cracked a joke about it suiting Sam, like, yeah, that's really funny Dean, because Sam's a girl.
Dean had laughed, putting down his double double to take a pointed sip of his soda, a root beer, and a medium size, to boot. They called it soda in New York, and on Long Island, they say it with a peculiar accent of the end of it, so it sounded like a mix of so-duh and so-der.
They don't stay in New York long enough to pick up any trace of an accent, although Sam sometimes pronounces it so-duh in his head and finds himself smiling. If anyone asks, he says it's nothing.
He avoids strawberry shakes, ice cream, and smoothies; basically anything blended with strawberries and tinted that pink color that reminds him of spending a night clinging to a toilet bowl for dear life. Sam avoids strawberries for so long, he doesn't realize he loves real strawberries until Dean comes home one day with a kerchief (it's clean, dumbass, Dean had said when Sam balked at the offering) full of fresh, stolen strawberries.
It beats the cold leftover In 'N Out burgers and fries waiting in the mini-fridge by miles.
iii. old wives' tales
Chicken soup does jack for a cold when you're stuck in a stripped down cabin in the middle of nowhere and forced to deal with a wood-burning stove that hisses when it's on. They don't have enough wood to keep it burning as much as they should.
Dad's been away for three days and Dean's right arm is still pretty bad. He bites back a moan as Sam works on re-bandaging his forearm. It won't scar, but the burns and too-deep scratches are the least of his worries. Dean's going to make a point of not having his shoulder pop out of joint 'cause shit, this ain't right. He'd taken too long to pop it back into place and his arm's useless for now and Sam's kind of crap at splitting logs.
Dean doesn't think Sam would be happy if Dean started chucking Sam's worn schoolbooks into the stove to keep it going either.
They've got cans of chicken noodle soup stocked up, necessary during the end of winter when Sam's colds are hazardous for Dean and Dad. It’s the kind of nasty cold that lead to nonstop runny red noses and so much congestion that it starts looking like a good idea to slam a car door against your head to stop the pounding.
Okay, that's more how Dean feels about it than Dad does. Dad just becomes more agitated (than usual, so that’s saying a lot) and makes his boys run extra drills to, in Dean's opinion, sweat out all the disease. Doesn't help much; Sam's that bad of a plague carrier.
"Careful Typhoid Mary," Dean mutters as Sam wipes his runny nose with the back of his hand. "You better wash your hands again."
Sam just gives one of his New Looks that Dean likes to call a death glare, only it's way more bitchy than that.
There's nothing better to do and Dean has to make the painkillers last until Dad comes back (at least four more days), so they start their usual line of bullshit (A.K.A.: things to do when you're not near a working TV). Some people recite urban tales just for the hell of it. Dean and Sam do it to keep their minds sharp.
Oh, and because some of the crap is kind of awesomely crazy.
"Pop rocks and soda," Dean begins, after Sam returns from washing his hands. There's the sick-sweet scent of the cheap soap clinging to Sam and Dean ignores the tumbling waves thrashing around in his stomach. He might have to force down some of the soup later on, but he’s damned if he’s tasting that crap right now.
"Dean, remember when you double-dogged dared me to eat that dog biscuit and when I didn't, you said you'd blow yourself up in shame for having a wimpy little brother and you finished off the last of my pop rocks and took a swig of Coke right out of the bottle and you're still here in mostly one piece?" Sam's lips tighten as though it's something that's still bugging him. He really knows how to hold a grudge and Dean won’t ever tell Sam that he totally gets that from Dad. "Everyone knows that it isn't true."
Dean's torn between annoyance at Sam's perfect recall for those stupid stunts and admiration of how Sam gets all that out without taking a breath. He settles for grouchy, which isn't hard when his body's burning all over and he's wondering if banging his head on the tiled bathroom floor might sort out all this pain by at least giving him something new to focus on.
"Okay princess, your turn. And hey, if you think of someone good, I'll let you smack me upside the head. No retaliation."
There's a quick flash of a frown on Sam's face and crap, looks he totally knows Dean's motives for this deal. "Dean, if you need another –"
Dean shakes his head because he's a moron. Things get wonky for longer than he likes. He bites back the acid bile creeping up his throat. Dammit. "No, I'm fine. C'mon, dazzle me."
"The kidney thefts. Caleb's always believed that there's a creature behind that story and a new one because it isn't as old as some of the other myths, but it's so exact, that it has to exist somehow."
Dean closes his eyes and opens them. Nope. The room's still hazy around the edges. Okay, so kidneys. Ice baths. Dean's only suffered an ice bath once, thanks to a fever that wouldn't break and he doesn't recommend it. "Weak."
"Weak? That's it?"
"Shut up. I'm wounded."
"So?" Sam points to the red thing on his face that once would have been called a nose. "I'm sick."
"Yeah you are." Dean feels the smile wanting to tip upwards but he smothers it down to say, mock-serious, "I saw you checkin' out that cashier at the last Sip 'N Go. She was old enough to be Dad's granny. You got a thing for blue hair?"
Sam's entire face scrunches up and he nearly flails his arms when he bitterly says, "You're disgusting, Dean."
"But I got both my kidneys and I haven't exploded yet. Guess I'm doing good."
It's a challenge, the gauntlet thrown and Sam takes it because he doesn't know better yet. "Okay, so you know what they say about the kid that got his tongue stuck to the icy pole? It wasn't his tongue that got stuck there."
What the hell do you mean by that, Dean means to say (because Sam can't mean that part, that’s just too freaking cruel) but Sam sneaks off, like a damn ninja or something, going to the little kitchenette. Before Dean figures out what Sammy’s up to, Dean's got ice cubes down his loose fleece pants and under his boxers too and he's screeching higher than he used to before his voice dropped.
Dean would get his revenge later because in the skirmish (or in the attempt for Dean to keep his dick from freezing), Dean rolls off the couch and knocks his head on the knobby wooden floors, getting himself a nice long blackout as a reward.
He would thank Sam later on, but Sam never seems to get what exactly Dean’s thanking him for.
It’s better than talking about a lame legend like Bloody Mary. Like that’s ever going wind up having a kernel of truth to it.
iv. get your kicks
Sam watches the blossom of yellows, green, and blues with deep fascination, poking at the smaller streaks of purple. It's his first honest bruise that he's gotten thanks to doing something normal. Bike-riding. No excuse, no need to lie, because it's true, this long bruise up his left side is thanks to a bike.
He hears Dean pounding on the bathroom door, but Sam doesn't care because this mark right here, one that'll fade just like all the rest, is a testament to a crappy bike with a rusty chain, not thanks to hunting-related activities. He was riding around the quiet suburbs of their temporary home and he took a turn too fast and the chain snapped and Sam took to the blacktop hard.
It had been ugly and a concerned woman came towards him, asking him if he was okay.
Sam doesn’t know why he had apologized at first, when he tried to convince her he was fine, it had been just a reflex, I’m sorry, I guess I went too fast. I’m okay.
Sam’s okay. Sam’s better than that. He’s normal.
Dean picks the lock (which hey, they have a strict policy on no lock-picking when someone’s in the bathroom) and enters. Draws a breath when he sees Sam’s bruise, exposed in all its ugly beauty.
“Damn Sammy, I’d hate to see the other guy. You need help with any ointment,” Dean shakes off the concern, forcing an easy smile that isn’t easy at all, “You better ask that cute girl next door, the one with the pigtails.”
“Dean, she’s a year older than me,” Sam says, hating how scandalized he sounds.
It looks like Dean’s restraining himself from giving Sam a noogie, his fingers involuntarily clenching. “Sam, I ever tell you how special you are?”
“I don’t know,” Sam says, shrugging on the worn cotton shirt he’d brought into the bathroom. It’s the one that hurts the least against his bruised skin. “Did you or Dad write ‘suck up’ on that essay I got an A+ on?”
“Hey, put it on the fridge at your own peril, buddy.”
Sam glares at him (a look that Sam’s really comfortable with, almost scarily comfortable). “Dean, I had that paper shoved in the bottom of my backpack. It’s almost like someone took it out and stuck it up there just to make fun of me.”
Dean ruffles Sam’s hair (which Sam refuses to trim, despite the not-so-subtle comments of Dad about how it’s getting hard to remember if he has two boys).
“God, Dean, can you just– “
“So how’d it happen?” Dean prods a finger in one of the nastier parts of the bruise and frowns when Sam recoils.
“You should see the other guy,” Sam flatly says.
There’s a tense pause and Dean shrugs. “You want ice cream? I’m buying.”
“With whose money?”
Dean just smiles, putting an arm on Sam’s shoulder (Dean used to use Sam’s head as the arm rest, but Sam’s been growing in inches faster that Dean did at Sam’s age), “Someone who was stupid enough to make a bet with me.”
Sam never tells his brother or Dad how he gets the bruise. They would criticize him, tell him that he can’t afford to be clumsy, but all Sam wants to say is, that’s the whole point.
v. driving lessons
When Dean first gets behind the wheel of the Impala, he doesn't care that he's about to get a John Winchester-style driving lesson. No, like water off a duck's back, all the insults and biting comments about Dean's lack of skills don't stick in Dean's mind.
After, when the sky’s more ink black and even most of the stars have left for some shut-eye, he finally manages to fall asleep. He’s spent two blessed hours behind the wheel and has had six more to blissfully remember those two hours. All he dreams of is an open road, stretching endlessly and the car thrumming underneath him, going wherever he urges it go.
By day three of his driving lessons, he understands the car better than he gets his brother. It's not something he'd ever say out loud, but there's something so intoxicating about this car. How every piece falls into line and when he pushes down on the accelerator, he can tell which parts are working perfectly and what needs to be inspected, maintained, and repaired.
Dean doesn't want to get mushy, but he may be in love.
She’s a real beauty and he decides when Dad gives him the keys for good, Dean’s going to throw himself a party and invite no one, save him and the car. He’ll tear off for a couple of hours, see how far he can push her until all he’s got left is a blur of countryside and the roar of an engine going full-throttle.
When Dean pops a tire, he nearly has a heart attack. Or something heart-related. Sam mocks him and claims that it’s a broken heart but it’s easily remedied. Although Dean refuses to go for a cheaper tire and outfits the Impala with four new tires, the kind that deserve to be contrasted against the perfect black shine of the paint job.
Sam asks him once, when Dean offers to give Sam some secret driving lessons (because Dean’s kind of sure that Dad or Sam will wind up arguing, like they seem to do whenever the wind changes), why Dean’s so obsessed about, like, a car.
Dean will totally lie about it later, but he does give an honest answer.
“Can you remember a time without the car?”
Sam’s quiet for a while and he doesn’t even pull one of his bitchy faces when Dean ribs Sam for trying to drive the car in neutral.
Dean works out reasons why he should be in the car when Dad begins the driving lessons for Sam and Dean’s there to hear Dad say, in a rare pleased voice, “You did good there, son.”
Dean catches his father’s eyes in the mirror and even though it’s directed at Sam, Dean likes to think it’s for the both of them.
Later, he’ll take over the car and have Sam sitting shotgun while he does a record amount of donuts. Sam actually laughs, full-out, for a long, long time and it’s a damn fine time, all things considered.