Genre: gen, the S1 circus AU where Sam and Dean are fire-eating acrobat vetala
Characters: Dean, Sam, a bit of Castiel, mentions of Ruby
Word Count: 2000
Summary: After four years at Stanford, Sam comes home to the big top. He has a knife, and Dean has an angel.
Notes: Written for omens at spn_j2_xmas 2013.
What follows is a stand alone story (uh, more or less), but is mostly a 'teaser' for what I'd really like to write for you. There were some unexpected fandom things that made it difficult to write this right! this! moment! So rather than try to rush it, and half-ass the story I really want to write for you, I've written this with the promise that I am writing you something else, too. Because words cannot describe how much I love your prompt set, from the first day I read it, and how much I enjoyed looking through your journal while brainstorming. Your posts alone make me want to use Dreamwidth, and curmudgeonly LJ user that I am, that's a huge deal, even if it sounds kind of lame! XD
Soooo, this whole 'pre-fic' stocking stuffer solution of mine is probably weird as hell, but YOU WILL HAVE YOUR WINCHESTERS-ARE-VETALA CIRCUS AU, THE PROPER WAY. <333 Apologies in advance for the insubstantiality of this piece, and the belatedness of the actual one.
Kicked up enough dust from the haul to make just about anything easy to overlook. "Just about," you say, when Sam asks if the rigging's ready. Gone four years, back just under two hours, and already he wants up in the air. The years have worn him in different than you remember, probably, but you don't want to know, and you wouldn't know where to look, so you don't see anything. You treat him like he's still eighteen.
"College boy ran off and re-joined the circus. You clear that with your coeds?" You slide him a wry smile, like you haven't been ignoring him for two whole hours. You don't like the way he's looking at you--like he's sizing you up and, maybe, you're coming up short.
"I came home," Sam clarifies. He never really left, he says. He has the burns to prove it.
And fuck it, maybe it's true, maybe it's not, but you're long overdue for a hunt and there Sam is, looking half like he climbed out of a hole and half like he belongs in a sweater vest and a monocle or some shit like that, and suddenly your heart is racing and the air around you is a dizzying swirl of reds and golds and accelerants waiting to blow the entire thing to hell.
"What they been feeding you out there?" This, you throw over your shoulder. You make for the clown alley, thinking maybe you'll lose him in the throng of newbies, maybe you'll find a place to throw up before he catches up with you.
"East Palo Alto can be pretty dicey. Lots of options, though." It's supposed to be a joke, in a lame, Sam kind of way, and you like that, but it doesn't change the fact that it makes no fucking sense to you. He hurries to catch up when you elect not to acknowledge it.
You know this is not the welcome Sam was hoping for. That this is not the welcome you want to give. But you have two options: beat the living hell out of him, or implode. Of these, you've spent the last four years perfecting only one. 'Cause if you're gonna have a one man act, you have to be the best.
Then you're on the ground. Ass over tit on the ground. Guy line. You tripped. You're not making the best showing of your talents tonight, but you're an acrobat, you fucking swear. You rephrase your earlier question.
"Did they feed you?"
It's the only thing you say, amidst Sam's blabber, his atrocious concern, your protestations, Sam's hands and your jabs, that qualifies as intercourse. A parcel of information mediated all the way from your skidding brain to Sam's stupid, timid attempt at a homecoming.
There's no real way to assure Sam that yes, you're fucking okay, and if you're a little pale, or a little topsy turvy, it's Sam's damn fault, so you buck his ministrations and you pin him to the ground. "Easy, tiger."
You're gonna whip our your lighter, let it kiss his lips just to see what he'll do, but he rocks you forward with core strength you sort of assumed he wouldn't have anymore, and pitches you over his head with his legs, which catch you in the stomach out of nowhere. You roll, slipping into muscle memories it's clear Sam was afraid you'd forgotten. He launches off the ground, and you're ready for him, and he's riding your shoulders before you really realize that he's not eighteen anymore. He's taller and heavier now, and there's a twinge in your lower back that leaps to the fore of your consciousness, tandem to the aggravating realization that you're gonna have to learn how to top, aren't you.
Then you both realize what you're doing, and jesus christ, it's like you're in a musical or some shit, and you swore you'd never be one of Those People. You release.
"Drifter," you say, because it seems like Sam's next logical homecoming. You brother's next logical homecoming. The family's businesses are, after all, various but inextricable from one another. "Lost a lot of blood on the take, but he's not in the system. Cops can't scrounge up enough to ID him, no one's come filing a missing persons."
Sam's got his knife ready, and there's so little hesitation there you almost want to take it from him. It's not an edge you recognize. It's from a girl at school, Sam says, and you ask, "Jess?" because you're not an idiot. You know how to put two and two together.
Sam goes rigid. Not gonna lie, your response to that is more reptilian than not. Sammy's dream life in Cali doesn't pan out and he comes crawling back to the big top; fuckin' figures. It's the I told you so of I told you so's, but there's something in Sam's eyes--no, something in his flexor tendons, and the scarred skin that bridges over his knuckles, bloodless and over tense--that shuts you up.
Ruby, Sam says. The knife belongs to a girl named Ruby.
"Cute name," you say, but already you're wondering what kind of crowd Sam's been running with at school. You can't read the runes on the edge, but some primal reflex assures you--someone takes that knife to your hide, only way you don't get skinned alive is the mercy of the hand on the other end.
As the two of you skulk toward the backlots, that same primal instinct recommends an extra couple wary feet of distance between you and Sam and Sam's knife, but you don't listen. You never do.
Your questions about Cali crack to dust against Sam's silence. Maybe if you hadn't called it Stamford that first time, you'd have sounded more sincere. Maybe Sam, show-off that he's always been, would have volunteered more. But he doesn't, and to be brutally fucking honest, you're a little afraid that you don't know him anymore. But maybe you're just thinking about that knife. Maybe you've spent too much time piecing together the five hundred million different reasons Sam left you in the first place.
None of them are the reason he gave you, and none of them allow that he 'never really left,' to use his words. Because one, if you were him, you'd have fucking lied, and two, Sam's an idiot. Sam's not the one who gets to decide whether he left or not; that is and always will be the purview of the people left behind. Leave it to John Winchester to hammer that one home.
But you fall into step with each other (unpracticed serendipity). You can hear the pattern of Sam's breath, flush and ready and hungry. You can hear the blood in his veins. You can feel Sam's response, his adjustments, his invitations, as he beats the bounds beside you, calculating his position against yours. It's all so familiar.
"You still have that car?" Sam asks.
"You ever driven it?"
You don't answer.
"Vic got a name?" Sam asks instead.
You wonder whether Sam learned all their names in 'East Palo Alto.' Whether this was something he made a point of. Whether it was a tic he'd gleaned from this Ruby chick, or whether Ruby was one of its casualties. Sam had never wanted to know before; that'd have meant getting in deep.
You've got them memorized to the tune of Led Zeppelin's entire discography (well, I through IV so far). This one, in your mind, is the opening riff of Houses of Holy.
You gesture to the tail end of the circus freights, dusty and innocuous and bland as hell. You've been in this business since the day you were born and you're still not sure if that looks nothing or everything like a monster's lair.
"No last name?"
"No last name." Not that you have much of a problem with that. Aliases only make your job that much easier. Your pupils dilate, your world goes white hot, and you bare your fangs.
You wait for Sam to go completely still, lurch to resting beside you. Then you surge forward. Whatever Sam's read on you was before, you're pretty sure it slips a disc and grinds out completely different now. Surprise is really the only thing that keeps Sam frozen, and you don't feel him behind you.
You send the door to the freight car screaming, guns blazing, fire in your movements, and you're not sure whether you left Sam behind out of spite, or whether you forgot about him.
What you're not expecting is Castiel. For a dude who hasn't been fed or watered in about a million years, he's pretty vindictive. More to the point, actively so. You've got a personal rule against messing with hunters, but that's really not what you'd pegged him for. The silver blade at your throat--wherever the fuck that came from--might be proving you wrong.
Castiel is tied to a chair and caked in blood and he's still going to stab you in the chest.
Then he hesitates.
You should overpower him now--you probably could have overpowered him earlier--but you let everything to slack. You're stuck between wanting to tear him to pieces and imploding. You're beginning to see a pattern in all of your decision-making.
It's the first time your dinner has ever addressed you by name.
It's almost interesting, and almost hilarious, and almost creepy as hell, but then Sam's face is swimming above you, and above Castiel, and it's that weird-ass knife Sam uses to slit Castiel's throat, not his teeth.
That Ruby chick, you've officially decided, is bad news.
"Vetala hunt in pairs, asshole," Sam growls into Castiel's nape, but you don't want to hear that shit out of Sam, not now, not after all this time. If it's affirmation you're supposed to feel, you can't quite swing it. If it's forgiveness you want to give, you're pretty sure Sam doesn't want it. If it's the past you hear in Sam, it's not at all what Sam intended. After all, Sam's a future-oriented kind of guy. But that's as far as you're willing to understand right now.
You close your eyes, but not soon enough to miss the blue-white that spills from Castiel's throat. Obviously, it would have been too fucking easy if he just bled blood.
Sam asks, "Who the hell is Castiel, Dean?" at the same time you ask, "Why the hell'd you use the knife?" and you're honestly not sure who's keeping bigger secrets.
Sam folds first. If the circus taught him anything, it's that the only way to master anything is to let yourself go down in flames with it. "Look, I can't do this alone, Dean."
'This.' Sam can't do 'this' alone. I hate to break it to you, Sammy, you want to say. But I think you just did. Castiel's body jerks and palpitates on top of you.
Of course, he's a long damn way from dead. You should probably mention that to Sam. You should probably mention a lot of things. But then, it's been four goddamn years. You figure they can swallow a thing or two, and fuck it. "Yes you can," is all you say. You don't move from under Castiel, and you don't even open your eyes. Of everything you've done and said today, this is probably what scares Sam the most.
He doesn't want to, he says. C'mon, Dean, he doesn't want to.
Come on, Dean.
The dizzying unlikelihood of Sam's presence catches you in your chest, and your desire to keep him here supercedes everything, the way it always does, secrets and all.
You're also pretty sure you're keeping more. "I'll deal with Cas," you answer, finally. "Rehearsal's in an hour. You been keeping up your triple torch?"
the end for this version, the end for now!