Genre: character study, hurt/comfort (hurt!Dean, some hurt!Sam), pre-series/Stanford!era
Characters: Sam, Dean, Jess, OCs (Stanford friends)
Rating: PG-13 for a lot of alcoholic slander
Word Count: 4600 or so
Summary: Sam's Stanford pals start trading life stories. Sam's just not sure what his is--at least until he gets a taste of what it's not.
Notes: Stanford!era, just before 1x01, with flashbacks going back through Flagstaff, and Wee!chesters. For coronasunrise at hoodie_time's Dean-centric H/C comment!fic meme. Original prompt/post. :)
"It remembers you," Jess whispers. She squeezes his arm tight and drags him up to a full confrontation with the trashy animatronic gorilla in the corner. She can feel the apathy stiffen in his shoulders, though he says nothing.
He hates this bar. But he's here for her, and she's determined to make it count.
"I know, I know--'never going back to that kooky gorilla bar'. But here we are--just means it's a good thing you love me, right? This way it won't be a totally traumatizing experience!"
"Because I love minor traumas."
Sabeen, Luis, and Tak are waiting--table absolutely closest to the gorilla, as requested. And tequila shots already.
"You guys didn't seriously start without us, did you?"
"Thought you two were gonna ride the love boat around the moat a few more times, babe! Think of it as a handicap. 'Sway you an' Sammy can keep up."
They can keep up to date. It's a whole new modern era (and he waggles a cell phone. Sam won't ask there it came from). "Phone in when you're not sitting alone in the library, getting stuffed in lockers. That kind of thing. It's not like I dropped off the-- I guess I kinda thought... well, whatever. I get it. Here's my number."
Sam upturns his palm. Dean drops the scrap paper into Sam's hand like it's caught a spark.
"And Dad's." The admission is accompanied by a furtive glance over his shoulder. Dean pretends to be captivated by the animatronic gorilla. He throws a peanut at its blinking Rudolph eyeballs. "Hey, you gonna eat your peanuts?"
The booth plastic is sticky under Sam's track pants. "Are you on a mission from Dad?"
"No, I'm in a bar, having a beer with my cactus of an underage brother."
Did Dad tell you to come? Sam repeats, voiceless this time. But his body language is shouting it.
Dean shrugs. "No. C'mon, Sammy."
"It's Sam, now. Listen, I gotta go. Jess's driving back to San Jose tonight. It's her birthday. She's turning twenty."
Dean takes a long swig. "Sure thing, Sammy."
When Sam starts unfurling ones from his wallet, Dean waves him off. "Go buy an apple for the teacher. I got this." He digs around in his jacket pocket, pulls a fifty. "Happy fucking birthday to me."
"So my grandma--little old Asian lady, right? Fuckin' tiny--and she's just like, aiiyah, I order five chairs you think you can give me four and I won't notice? Dinner for five--for five! And she's just goin' off on the server, and my mother's fucking mortified. We get the damn manager and my grandma's just like, for five! For five! And the dude has no damn clue what she's goin' on about, and he's just like, Table for four? And that sets her off all the fuck over again. Jeesus christ. I mean. Sweet fuckin' Buddha. My family, man. And my grandma hasn't even been on the mainland since then, she was so fuckin' pissed. No hospitality! she says. Fuck. Hella witchy--believe the stereotypes, you have no idea. Yeah, anyway... You're next, Sam. Craziest thing."
Sam chuckles. "Ahh, you really don't want to know." Oh, but they do. Of course they do.
“Why you cockblocking, Sammy?"
"It's Sam. I mean, come on. How am I supposed to top that?"
"You can't--ain't that right. So tell us a story anyway--feed my ego. Brookfield's class is raping me, Mr. 3.76. I need this."
"C'mon Sam. I told you the clothesline story. I did the accents and everything. We're sharing and caring here!" Sabeen throws a wad of napkins across the table. "C'mon, what'd your dad say when you got in. First thing."
"He wasn't home; it was just me and my brother. And D--my brother, uh. He punched me."
"Goddamn you." Tak again. "I bet the acceptance committee ate that shit right up. Abusive home life? Check.
"This is gonna be good."
He's not sorry. Not about this, anyway. Sam pulls his scarf to his lips and makes sure it hides his brand-new purple shiner. He hopes it's as cold in California as it is here, though he sort of doubts it. The wool of his gloves catches on his split knuckles. They sting. "You good?"
Dean's still brooding cross-legged by the bed, his back to Sam. Sam can see him in the bathroom mirror. "Please," he says. Some time after: Not like you're Mohammed Ali or nothin'.
Sam sighs. "I didn't exactly spring this out of the blue. You knew I'd sent the applications. Not exactly the smoothest stalking you've ever done, man."
Dean expels a scornful fricative. Breathes in sharply. Sam turns.
"Okay, I really am sorry about that part, Dean. I forgot about the rib. If I-- I wouldn't have--"
"Right, 'cause that--" Dean groans when Sam uses Dean's shoulder to lower himself to sitting, but all things considered it's a fairly subdued reaction. That's probably as hands-on as he's gonna let Sam get tonight, so Sam doesn't have much of a choice to fly with that and figure Dean for fine.
"If this rib pokes something important and I bleed out or go septic and die or something, I swear to God I will haunt you 'til the end of days. I'll throw you down a stairwell."
Sam snorts. He's warming to the banter. If this is as close to 'congratulations' as Dean can get, he's okay with that. "Go ahead and try. You're just pissed a three-year old nailed you. Think Sasha Colm'd make it in the NFL?"
Dean skirts the issue. "That scarf makes you look like an altar boy."
"They don't wear scarves."
"What do scarves even have to do with--"
"What're you going to tell Dad?"
Sam shrugs, prods tenderly at his contused jaw. "Sasha did it?"
"That's not what I meant. Fuck, Sam."
Well, how was he supposed to know? This conversation isn't making any sense. But Sam swallows his words, and the frown that might have garnished them. "I wasn't gonna say anything. Summer session starts in June; figure I'd get settled in before then, pick up a job for a few months, money for books and stuff. I was gonna leave tonight. I have the bus tickets."
Dean knocks his head back and hits the metal bedframe, which sends a hollow thrumming through the room. "Tonight." The way he says it makes it sound like Are you fucking kidding me? "Is this gonna be Flagstaff all over again?"
"Well, I'm telling you this time," Sam says, even though it isn't enough. He knows it isn't. But he doesn't think anything is.
"Would've appreciated a little more head's up. Would've let you be the one getting sideswiped by the damn ghost, for one."
"No, you wouldn't have 'appreciated it', and you know it." It's like the air is heavier now, laded with confessional stormclouds. Sitting next to Dean like this puts Sam in uncomfortable proximity to the smoke-soaked bedspread, the carpet filled with unnamable things. But Sam can't bring himself to move, because Dean is so close--reach out and touch him close--and in an hour forty-five, Sam really is getting on that bus. He's set on that. He wants to make these last moments count.
"You knew I sent the applications," Sam repeats. "And it's not like I'm moving to Yemen. Summer break exists, you know. We'll keep in touch."
"This crock for me or you, Sammy? I know this family, and I know that's not how it fucking works. So just stop."
Sam bites his lip. His knuckles sting, and everything is hot and clammy. He didn't want this. He didn't want to have to go through this. That's why he--"You knew," he reiterates miserably.
Dean stands, toes to heels to stiffly scraping up the bedframe, and leaves Sam sitting. "Yeah, I know."
"Just wanted to hear it from you."
Good birthday? Sam whispers to Jess. Tak is relaying yet another grandma story, in sweeping, swaying, animated gesticulations.
"Life-changing. I'll keep it close to my heart forever." She snorts ungracefully into her water. "Okay, seriously, Sam, we're in a bar with--a floating Nascar and a robot monkey that dispenses peanuts. There is a jukebox, playing REO Speedwagon. It's just fun; you're allowed to have it, too, you know."
Tak's clinging to Sabeen like a starfish, and he's passed the storytelling baton to Sam again. She can hear the booth vinyl squeak as Sam twists his hands.
One story. It doesn't have to be that long. Or just make it up or something--it's not like he's gonna remember in the morning, anyway. Pretend you're just telling it to me.
Sam shakes his head. I'm sorry. I can't.
"Sam, I'm gonna castrate you with a pool cue if you don't let us in on your juicy little secrets! Fuckin' selfish man. Sam."
"Tak," says Jess. Zip it.
"Hey, I think I'm a couple stamps short. Can you mail these for me, sir?"
Sam shuts his eyes, steels himself. He keeps his finger between the pages in his manila envelope; he needs to make sure everything's there. Then he turns around.
Dean's waggling a stack of skin mags at him. There are stamps tacked artfully over the covergirl's nipples.
"And where would you like me to send those?" Sam bites out.
Dean shrugs. "Wherever you're sending that. Just stick it in after your foofy little essay--picture's worth a thousand words.
"--Fucking selfish, man."
This last comes forth when Sam turns back to the front desk without taking the magazines, starts printing Office of Undergraduate Admission, Montag Hall under STANFORD UNIVERSITY.
"No, it's not." Yes it is. It is and it isn't. Sam doesn't undertand how something can be both, but there's his luck.
"Here, let me try." Sabeen leans into the table conspiratorially. "See, this is what happens when you don't speak up for yourself, Sam. People fill in the blanks for you." She wets her lips with an ice cube, and lets it melt in her hand. (Melting is the profoundest act of being, Luis pontificates.)
Sabeen: "So, once there was this little boy named Sammy. And he lived in like, this big Southern Gothic mansion with alligators in the swamp and stuff. And his dad was like, this bigshot gangster mafia sniper guy in hiding in Miami. And Sam had this brother, named--"
"He had this brother, named Dean--see, was that so hard, Sam?--and if Papa Sam wasn't bad, this dude was like. Totally off the wall. And he like...um. C'mon guys, help me out here. Luis, you're the theatre minor. Improv!"
Luis is too fucking drunk for that shit, he says, and waves her off. Jess glances at Sam, who's smiling weakly through all of this. But it spares him the talking, so she figures he's going to let this one slide.
Then Tak takes over. "Dude, you suck at this, Sabeen. Sam isn't Scarlet O'Hara. Jesus fuck."
Tak's story goes like this:
Stories aren't worth shit; not if what you're really after is the truth. Sam Winchester--where's this guy coming from? I'm from Hilo--mahalo, da kine and all that shit. But Sam. We know one thing about his past--he won't talk about it.
Man, we don't even know if that's his real name. What if he's witness protection? What if he's from a family of big time serial killers, doing time in Texas before they get the axe? Or Bean's mafia thing. But I think. I think it's personal. Like, MTV Inside Scoop shit. And I hella want to talk to this brother guy. What's his number? Let me drunk dial him--primary research.
(No, Sam says. He doesn't have it. He threw it away a long time ago.)
Address? I'll send him a postcard. Get him to come talk to the Paly seniors, be all inspirational and whatever.
(No, Sam says. He doesn't have one. And Sam wouldn't give it if he did.)
"That's 'cause you're a fuckin' asshole," Tak jeers. "Gimme something to work with, here. C'mon. What's the last thing you did with him?"
"Anal," Luis chimes in.
Sabeen pushes Luis with her ice cube hand. "No, stop it. That's really fucked up."
And Jess is sorry. She is sorry, and she sees where this is going. She opens her mouth to call off the rest of the evening, because everyone is a little too drunk and things were getting a little too weird, but Sam cuts her off.
"We had a beer. He paid. Then he threw a peanut at me because I was leaving to go to Jess's parent's. Boring, see? Now lay off."
Jess stops. "Wait. Sam, that was like two whole yea--"
"You really loved it that much up here?" Dean's crunches through the broken glass, surveying the cabin. He flicks one of the postcards Sam has taped to the wall.
Sam's still trying to sweep what remains of the front window into a dustpan. He doesn't say anything. If he opens his mouth, For the love of God, Dean, stop walking in the goddamn glass is going to be the first thing out of his mouth, and if there's something Sam knows for sure, it's that he absolutely can't say that. Not right now. He bites his lip until he tastes blood and concentrates on the glass, which catches the blue and white of Dean's Maglite.
The full rush of panic-and-then-fury roaring through him has been dispensed with, and the coming down is cold and nauseating. When he can no longer feel his heart pounding in his cheeks, the eternal crunch of Dean over the glass punches its way to his sensory foreground.
"You're making this really difficult," he manages. "Dad's gonna wonder what's taking so long."
"So give it up, then," Dean snaps. Then, lower: "If you'd just unlocked the door, I wouldn't have had to improvise."
Sam's not even going to dignify that with a response. "Yes, I really did love it that much up here," he answers instead.
"Wow." Dean swings the light away from the glass on the floor, and Sam hunched over the warped dustpan, up to the spiderweb rafters, the sharp coiled springs sticking up from the mattress. The place where rain seeped in and impregnated one of the kitchen corners with a menagerie of bacterial molds. Then back to the glass, and Sam. "Then you must really hate me."
Sam looks up. There's something unsettling about the timbre of Dean's voice--something ragged and poisonous, though Sam's not quite sure what. It scares him.
Dean meets Sam's stare, then snaps his gaze back to the window, where the Impala's curling exhaust through the rushes, headlights holding the forest hostage. Then his walls go up. "I mean, this place is shit. Crash a Hyatt or something."
"So, no phone. No house. No job, I'm guessing. Unless you guys are like, independently wealthy and live on a yacht or something. But something tells me that's not Sammy." Luis enumerates his points with splayed fingers. "Beat his bro when bro got a fancy scholarship to play with, served beer to a minor, isn't something Sam wants to brag about--yup, sounds like a douche. That's my verdict, Pre-Law. Your brother's a douche."
"My brother's a douche. Comes with the territory." Sabeen's playing with the ice cubes again.
"No, I'm a douche. I'm just a sexy, smart, successful douche. Don't confuse that with just being a jealous loser." Tak takes a long, deep swig of his beer. He's stepped it down from the shots--home stretch. "Trailer trash from the Valley, right? And you're here, all fancy and collegiate, so you can prove you're better than him. Good for you. Fuck him. Fuck him to the gutters."
Jess panics quietly. "Tak, stop. That's really--I can't even... I think we need to take you home." She looks to Sabeen, Luis, for support, but they say nothing. Sabeen makes water tracks on the table.
"Fuck you," says Tak. "Fine. Jus' wanna take a leak first." He staggers to his feet, leans over Sam's shoulder. Hey, listen, he drawls. I had a cousin like that. Shaming the bloodline and all. Dumbass eventually got himself capped by a Gook. You just kinda gotta wait 'til Darwinism runs its course, yeah? I know the type; gonna get themselves down in enough dumb, bad shit. Eventually they're gonna die.
You just gotta wait it out.
Jess flinches. "Tak, just shut the fuck up, okay?"
Tak attempts to navigate the twenty yards to the bathroom. Sam moves to follow.
"Sam? I'm really sorry, I should've--but then. And I-- You know he's--"
"Yeah, I know," says Sam. "Just going to the bathroom."
"Not here. You're gonna have to deal with me. You're gonna have to deal with me, okay? Game face. Pay attention. Game face, Sam. Look at me. Look at me."
Sam doesn't see much but pain and blackness. He can hear the ocean. He can hear it with his nose.
"Sam, you dipshit. Look at me!"
Go away, Sam says. He can't hear himself. He can hear Dean just fine, mouthing up a storm. He makes a grab for Dean's hands, which are twisted in his shirt (he can hear the seams ripping, hear them ripping even when he can't hear himself shout) and touches something hot and sticky. Hot wet trickles between his fingers.
"--c'n move that. That's--good, that's good. Okay, okay. Uh--" Dean draws a ragged, gagging breath. That's the thing Sam remembers.
He remembers his shirt coming apart in tatters and Dean practically sitting on his shoulder. It was like he wanted to break his collarbone, there was so much pressure. He remembers Dean tying something off--his shoulder?--and catching a bit of skin in the knot. He didn't care when Sam screamed--just said "fuck" again and pulled tighter.
"Sam, I need you to answer me. How old are you?"
Sam's busy blinking hot, wet out of his eyes. He feels like he can almost see. He can almost remember where they are (it's not the ocean). He can feel pine and bramble under him.
"Answer me. Age, now. Go."
Sam wakes up enough to realize he's streaked with blood from the waist up. And because he's "Thirteen! I'm thirteen!" he panics.
Dean grabs his mouth with a sooty, salty hand, digs his fingernails into Sam's cheek. Shhh. Sam feels a heavy coolness across his chest. It's a .45.
Shhhh. "It's not yours. --Some of it is. Not all of it. Most of it's not. Not all yours. You're okay. Shh."
"Dean--" Sam mumbles through Dean's fingers.
Dean releases Sam's mouth, rolls off of him. The brambles crackle. You good?
Sam heart's still somewhere up by this nose. "'M gonna be sick."
"No, you're good. You're gonna be good. And you're gonna take the gun, and you're gonna shoot the sonuvabitch in the heart first chance you get."
"Silver bullets. You're gonna be good."
"Dad'll hear the shot. He'll come--"
"But what if he's--"
"Well, he's not. Just-- Just take--"
"Fuck." Breaths like a flock of birds ripped out of a tree. Then nothing.
Sam looks down. Fits his hands to the bloody handprints on the gun. "Dean?"
There's a lot of blood.
"Dean?" He doesn't know what to say. He doesn't want to say anything. Dean needs to speak. "Dean, how old are you?"
"I'm drunk, man." Tak holds up his hands in mock surrender, back flat against the corridor wall. Someone shoves past them, darts into the bathroom, but Sam doesn't falter.
"I know you are. You're completely wasted."
"So let me take a piss. My bladder's gonna fuckin' explode, man."
"Then let it."
Tak's slushy grin slackens. "That's cold, man."
Sam drops his hold on Tak. Tak, unprepared, crumples halfway down the wall before he remembers his feet.
"Oh, for the love of--" Sam draws him up again. This time Tak stays standing.
Sam takes a deep breath. "I get it, man. You're drunk. Fine, whatever. But what I don't get is why the hell you think that should absolve you from being a dick. Because believe me; I've seen people so much further gone than-- And they--"
No. He's not going to talk about that. Not after all this. Talking is losing. "You know what? Forget it. It doesn't matter. Go take your piss. Go." He waves Tak in the direction of the bathrooms. He can let this go. It doesn't matter.
Tak doesn't go. "Well, what're we s'posed to think? Can't blame me for trying."
"Oh, bullshit." Now Sam's just annoyed. Now it does matter. "You wanna hear a story so bad? Fine. Fine." Sam pinches the bridge of his nose. He doesn't want to make a scene. He can see the buzz of people hovering just outside the corridor, so that's probably out the window. Someone's doing crowd control. That's just--awesome. Goddamn it.
This whole evening is just awesome. And here goes nothing.
"My brother," he starts, "is not your cousin. He's nowhere near being your damn cousin. My brother--has saved my ass a million times, because he's a hero.
"...And he's handed my ass to me a couple times, because he's my brother, and sometimes he's kind of a jerk. But he roots for me, even when he doesn't have a clue what team I'm playing for.
"--When he's not trying to sabotage me. Because he's my brother, and...that's kind of what you do. That's what brothers do. But he will always-- He has always--" Sam's not sure how much of that really comes out in words--maybe all of it, maybe none of it--but it's definitely all spilling into conscious appraisal. He feels like he's been slugged in the face.
Tak's not quite catching the nuance. "Tough shit, Winchester. All I hear is you talkin' about yourself. This about your brother or not? Seriously, dude. How do you have an 95 in Speigleman's, you fuckin' A."
Sam draws closer. "My brother doesn't need me to build him--verbal sand castles, because he doesn't take shit. Not from me, and sure as hell not from you. He just doesn't give a damn. But I do.
"So do me a favor and don't talk. Don't ask. Don't even think you any idea what you're looking at, when you imagine us. Because that's between me and him. That's ours. Don't even try to touch that."
Tak affords him a sloppy salute. Sam can hear fanfare, feel his pulse drumming in his wrists. He's not sure why, but he'd felt...liberated. Tak's reaction calls him back down to reality. He wanders into Sam's shoulder, claps Sam's chest.
"You're not going to remember any of this tomorrow, are you," Sam says. Grimaces.
Sam disentangles himself from Tak and, mortified, drags him through the crowd of onlookers. S'okay, he grunts. "I don't think I was saying it for you."
"You, you, you." Tak snorts. "Always with the you, Sammy."
"Don't pee on me."
"Hey, you got an extra quarter? I really want to try this, uh, gorilla thing, but I'm kinda strapped for cash..."
Jess tries her best to blink the wet out of her eyelashes before she turns toward the voice. Sabeen's paying the tab. Luis has gone home. Tak and Sam are unaccounted for. She gives the stranger three quarters.
He smiles at her genially. "Pretty kooky, huh? Machine gorilla in a cage."
She gives him a wilted shrug. "I like it."
He offers her a peanut. "Rough night? Saw your friends makin' some noise over there. Sa-- Sasquatch put on a pretty passionate show. Kinda dumb, though. Doesn't know what he's talking about."
Well, that's fantastic. Tak and Sam are sideshow-ing it in the bathroom. Sabeen's talking to the bartender (well, she's letting her breasts do the talking; the bartender's eyes don't seem to be doing the listening, nor his ears). Luis went home. Jess tries not to feel absolutely steamrolled.
"Birthday. But what're you gonna do."
"No shit? Mine, too. Happy birthday to us." He flips a peanut into the air and catches it in his mouth.
Jess licks the salt from hers. "Okay, well, my friends are probably gonna be coming back soon, so... yeah. I hope you liked the gorilla."
The guy gives her another peanut, and a napkin. There's a phone number scrawled on it. Of course.
"I have a boyfriend," she tells him.
He shrugs. "Give it to him, then." Then he takes out a handful of quarters. "Hey, I gotta spring. How 'bout I put on a song for you before I go? Birthday special."
'Hey, you got a quarter?' God. Jess can't believe she fell for that one. Still, she bites back a grin. "You got it--Zep's Ramble On. I won't settle for less."
The stunned look he gives her is unexpectedly sincere. "Huh."
"What?" She regards him sideways.
"Nothing. It's just that you have excellent taste."
"I have a boyfriend," she reminds him.
He smirks. "Don't I know it. Take care of him, okay?"
Then he's gone. By the time Sam and Tak collect Sabeen and make it back to the table, the song is long over.
His feet are melting into the hood of the Impala. They are bare and they are burning.
Dean comes back with two popsicles. He jumps up on the hood, too, though he's got jeans on, and shoes, so it's not exactly fair.
Blue raspberry. Dean's favorite. Sam thinks it's okay. But he relishes the cool in his mouth, the way it slides down his throat and chills everything down to his stomach, and the flavor doesn't really matter.
"They cost $1.75 each."
"Yeah, well, for us they're free."
Right. Sam looks at his popsicle. Guilt feels warm.
"Don't be that way. We just ganked a chupacabra. That's gotta be worth at least seven popsicles."
Sam tries to buy into Dean's logic. All he can really think about are his burning feet. His burning feet and his blue raspberry tongue.
"You think you're gonna remember this? In like ten years. You think you'll remember this when you're twenty?"
Sam considers this. He motors a chunk of ice around his gums with his tongue. "I dunno. I guess not, I mean. Should I?" He thinks it's kind of a dumb question. Why does it matter?
Maybe he'll remember it, if his feet burn. Sam's attention is fixated on the boiled redness of his soles when Dean shoves him, hard. He nearly topples off the hood altogether, but Dean pulls him back by his shirt collar. The popsicle isn't so lucky.
"What did you do that for!" Sam sputters. He's breathing hard. His hands and elbows and calves are burning now, too. His popsicle is puddling rapidly on the asphalt.
"So now you'll remember." Dean takes one last bite off the top of his popsicle, and offers the rest to Sam.