Gen, PG-13 for language, 3830 words.
Bunny supplied/parented by gray_light and deirdre_c. They make lovely bunny-parents. The majority of the request was happy, fluffy, omgtheyloveeachothersomuch-ish ; and then narrowed a bit when combined with the idea of an AU where there was no rift when Sam left for college. There's no big fight, and Sam doesn't swear he's done hunting. The result: happy brotherfic with unabashed schmoop. The courses mentioned really are pre-law at Stanford, too, btw.
Palo Alto, CA; October, 2002
"Sammy. Sammy, c'mon. Let me in. Doors are for opening, Sam."
Jess looked at Sam yet again. He was wrinkling his forehead in a way that made her wonder if those lines would be permanent in another ten years.
It was a gorgeous Saturday morning, and they were sitting together in bed reading the paper and having coffee. The windows were all open, a breeze was billowing the curtains that Jess had made just for their room, and it was perfect .
"He's not going away," Jess said after a moment. "You know it."
"I want to spend the weekend with you," Sam said. "I have studying to do, and -"
"Me to do," Jess said with a laugh. "Um, yeah. They haven't been around in a couple of months. You should go do something with them."
"You don't have any idea what you're condoning," Sam said darkly.
"Yet you never actually tell me about it," Jess said. "They're not that bad. They're your family, Sam. Your dad scares me a little, but, it's just because he seems kind of intense. And your brother's a horndog, but, college has nearly made me impervious to that."
Sam shook his head with a sigh.
"Jess," Dean called from the bottom of the stairs outside in a pleading voice. "Jeeeeeeeeess, you're the prettier and more reasonable person in there, even if Sam is more of a girl than you."
Jess smirked. "Maybe it won't be that bad," she said. "Maybe they want to go to another gun show."
That was what he'd told her last time. He hated hiding things from her, but what the hell else was he going to do? Take her hunting, let his dad say cryptic things to her and order her around, let his brother tell her embarrassing shit from toddler days? It was bad enough that she'd met them. He wasn't ashamed of them; they weren't his creepy uncouth relatives that would embarrass him. They just looked at things very differently from people who were living a life that involved permanent residences and bills and schedules. And...laws. He'd made it perfectly plain that his new life and his old life were not going to meet somewhere in the middle, but Dean kept trying to blur the line.
"Oh, yeah. I love gun shows."
Sam's sarcasm could change weather patterns.
Jess rose and padded through the apartment on bare feet. She went to the front window and leaned out. "Stop calling him 'Sammy'," she called down. "Sammy is a name for pudgy twelve-year-olds."
Dean laughed raucously from the street below. Sam rolled his eyes with an exaggerated groan and slumped on the bed, using a pillow to cover his face.
"Jess," Dean said, "you're the best girlfriend I've never had."
"Just hold on, he's coming down," she said and walked away from the window. "C'mon, it's your family. They're supposed to drive you crazy."
Sam uncovered his face. "Why are you trying to get rid of me?" he said with something suspiciously close to a pout.
"Oh, whatever." She straddled his lap, and he gave her the rest of his attention. "Your whole life is me and school. I can hardly get you to go out and do really social things. They miss you, so, I can share. Get away from here for once and go do something."
Sam shook his head.
"Are you guys doing the horizontal hokey pokey, or what?" Dean shouted from the street.
"And you love your brother," she said, pretending she hadn't heard. "I know you do. It's really obvious."
Sam wobbled his head back and forth as if trying to decide. "Yeah."
"Also, get him out of here before someone calls the police," she said.
He kissed her and got dressed. He grabbed an apple before jogging down the stairs.
Dean was at the bottom, standing with his fingers twined though the crosshatching of the security gate, face tilted down to look at Sam from below. He was grinning, eyes alight with mischief and welcome. For just a moment there was a mutual feeling of thrilled adoration, the same feeling Sam remembered from his earliest years while waiting for Dean to come home from school.
"Sam-may," Dean said. "Man, you are quick on the trigger."
Sam hit the gate with the heel of one hand, eliciting a yell of pain from Dean as it rebounded off his head.
Dean rubbed his forehead from a step away. "Bitch."
"Jerk, why can't you act like a normal human being for five minutes?" Sam said. "Someone's gonna revoke your opposable thumbs."
"You're down here with your clothes on, so don't pretend you're not coming," Dean said.
"Let's just go," Sam said, opening the gate and stepping through. "Wherever the hell we're going. And don't treat Jess like that, or I'll kick your ass."
"Like what?" Dean said, looking incredulous. "She can take it, it's not like you're dating some fragile little blossom. We're practically family. I bet it doesn't even bug her."
Sam wrinkled his nose in annoyance and began walking, forcing Dean to tag along. Dean did even if he thought of it as 'catching up' in his own mind.
"Chivalry is dead, Sam," Dean said. "Gloria Steinem hoisted it on its own petard and then pulled a Bobbit on the petard."
Sam occasionally wondered how Dean managed to mix his metaphors, but he'd be damned if he was going to ask.
"Jess knows I'm full of it," Dean said, taking Sam's apple and taking a bite before giving it back. "You know you're walking away from where I'm parked, right?"
"Dude," Sam said, turning to walk the opposite direction. "Just once, we could, you know, plan these little excursions."
"Hey, I got no control over what jumps out to suck on people's toes," Dean said, mouth still full. "Nobody pencils evil in. It just happened to be in this area for once. You want me to keep a dayplanner, check your schedule before I give the monster of the week the go-ahead to do its thing? 'Cause I would never forgive myself for inconveniencing you, Sammy."
"It's Sam," Sam said. "I'm not fuckin' telling you again, asshole." He lightly stiffarmed Dean without looking at him or breaking step.
"This big act of yours is adorable, Sam . Out here you're not big man on campus, you know." Dean paused. "Except in a real literal sense, since you're taller than anybody. Basketball recruiter bug you again?"
"Every goddamn season so far," Sam said, spinning to walk backwards so he could face Dean. "Says I got the height and the moves . Told them I gotta use my moves for other stuff."
Dean laughed. "You could show them some stuff, White Shadow. You even gonna ask what we're doing?"
"No," Sam said. "You said 'where I'm parked' which means you've got the car, so dad is somewhere else hunting and it's a you-and-me gig, or we're gonna meet up with him later."
Dean gave a short nod of approval. "Observant. You're not carrying, though. You walk different when you are."
"Point," Sam said. "I don't keep it where anybody can find it, and I wasn't gonna try and get past Jess with it, with you screaming down here. So you better have something for me."
Dean shrugged. "Maybe something in the trunk, we'll see. If your hands haven't gotten too soft with all the page flipping you've been doing."
"You know, you can just -"
"It's probably a Birao ," Dean said.
Sam spun back around to walk shoulder to shoulder with him. "Doesn't ring a bell."
"It's a Basque legend about a spirit that takes over the bodies of people who've been cursed, and punishes them," Dean said.
"Sounds kind of like the Dirae ," Sam said.
"Lots of vowels in both," Dean said. "That cinches it."
Sam smirked. "Why're we bothering to chase after something that punishes 'evildoers'? You don't need me for that."
"Well, it's punishing them by using pain to get them to do whatever it wants," Dean said. "That's kind of a problem."
"So...the sinners are getting punished by being forced to sin even more," Sam said. "Big sins, little sins, what?"
"The normal behavior of one culture is sometimes a pretty bad sin to another," Dean said. "So, sin in itself is relative anyway."
"Pretty philosophical for a guy who 'does laundry' by turning his boxers inside out and has like seventy fake ID's," Sam said wryly.
Dean made a tsk sound and tilted his head. "You in that kind of mood today, Bugbear?"
"Oh, man," Sam said, realizing by the tone and the addition of a childhood nickname that he had overstepped his bounds and was being relegated to little-brother status again. "You know what I mean. What's your problem? I can't hassle you a little?"
"I helped you with that one sociology course," Dean said. "3543, 'Sociology of Crime and Delinquency'."
Great. Now there was guilt tripping. "Dude, you were my case study. That's not really...okay. It was a big help."
"Yeah. And 'Principals of Communication and Argumentation'. Who taught you how to argue just about anything with anybody? No way you would have aced that course without me. Passed, sure, but aced it? No way. And I helped you with your quadratic equations."
Sam waggled his head noncommittally. He had to concede the point. The only thing he'd ever been stuck on math-wise was quadratic equations. Hated those bastards. Dean could do them without even really paying attention. Dean could have gone to college in a heartbeat, but Sam knew better than to bring it up.
I'm where I'm needed , Dean had said. Where I do the most good. In the end, a college degree is a piece of paper that says you paid a lot of money to supposedly know stuff that lets you into the next round of a big pointless game. A game with bureaucracy, and people randomly telling you to do shit that makes no sense and just makes them richer. If you think you can make a difference in all that mess, Sam -- and if anybody can it'll be you - then I'm behind you a thousand percent. But it's not for me. I want results I can see today.
Sam couldn't fault him for it. There had been a time when he'd believed Dean was the coolest, smartest guy on the planet. He was older and knew better, but he still respected Dean for his flaws as well as despite them, and knew that his brother was smart in ways that nobody realized they needed at first.
They were dissimilar people, but it was best that way.
"I couldn't do this without you," Sam said, giving Dean a nudge with one shoulder.
Dean snorted. "Yeah, you could."
"Yeah, well," Sam said. "I don't want to."
"So just help me and dad with a hunt every now and then," Dean said. "Not like you owe me or anything, just. You know. Sometimes you're the guy for the job."
"And you miss me," Sam said with a grin.
"Oh, please . Get over yourself. We could replace you with a tall, geeky stand-in any day and barely notice the difference."
"I missed you too, Dean," Sam said, wiping a hand damp with apple juice on Dean's shirt.
Dean shrugged him off. "Fuckin' impossible to find parking around here."
The Impala was at the end of the block, parked at a curb. Sam paused to look it over. "New tires?"
Dean shrugged. "Was time for it."
"Whose name was the credit card under this time?"
Dean made a dismissive sound. "Don't start."
"Let me see the trunk," Sam said.
"What for? You don't need a piece yet."
Sam made an annoyed, pleading face that only his brother and father ever saw. Dean growled in impatience and unlocked the trunk. The bottom - hiding many, many weapons and assorted hunting paraphernalia - was locked in place, and there was a jack and a couple of quarts of oil loose in the front along with Dean's duffel, an extra pair of boots, and what Sam recognized as his father's duffel. A bag of rock salt wasn't completely out of place in October. It was always snowing somewhere.
"Just like home," Sam said, then swung into the passenger side with a practiced ease. He heard Dean snort before he got in and flung a paper bag at him, which Sam caught. Then he pointed to the two huge cups of coffee between them in the cupholders.
Sam looked in the bag at the various gooey breakfast-type items. "You smug jackass," he said. "You just assumed I'd be home, and that I'd come along."
Sam poked around in the bag as Dean started the car. "You still like cupcakes ?"
"It's a muffin , Sam. A common breakfast item."
Sam picked a large chocolate muffin-shaped item out and pointed at the frosting on top. "Muffins are garnished with, like, fruit and nuts or something. Maybe even cream cheese or just chocolate chips. Not frosting. That's a cupcake."
"I don't eat cupcakes," Dean said with finality. "Leave it alone."
"It's just cute, that's all," Sam said. "Didn't they have any with sprinkles?"
"Eat your fuckin' apple," Dean said.
Out Mirada Avenue to Gerona Road, down to Junipero Serra Boulevard. They headed southeast until it became the Foothill expressway.
"Car looks good," Sam said. "Nobody's bled in it recently, from what I can tell. How come you didn't send me anything on the job in Utah a few weeks ago, the one with the argopelter."
Dean had made a habit of sending Sam 'reports' after hunts. They looked incredibly mundane to anyone looking over Sam's shoulder. Wish you were here...we saw a group of whitetail being chased by a mountain lion, but they all got away. Cat was huge, had claws like a freakin' bear. It was really pissed when we distracted it. Good thing dad keeps a shotgun in the back . Whitetails were people and cougars were usually something smart, fast, and lethal. Sam knew it was a good hunt when he got an email that looked like a travel brochure, and bad when he got a call. Just a scratch, got a cool new scar out of it.
Dean shrugged. "Didn't find anything. It was just squirrels."
"Again?" Sam said. Squirrels were mistaken for a hell of a lot of things. "Where's this Birao ? No way I'm missing classes on Monday."
"We're gonna pick dad up in Mountain View," Dean said. "He was checking on something there."
"You could've taken Page Mill Road and gone El Camino Real from there," Sam said, choosing a muffin that didn't have frosting. "I like the scenic route, though."
"That's why I'm taking it," Dean said, tone caught somewhere between exasperation and affection, something Dean was an expert at.
They loved driving around, just the two of them, had loved it since Dean had learned to drive. Sometimes they took a longer route than they needed to, to get somewhere on the hunts where they were meeting up with their father or were out on their own. They knew each other well; sometimes too well.
It was why Sam knew Dean was lying.
"I know it's not dad," he said around a bite of muffin as he popped the lid off his coffee. "If anything was wrong with dad, no way you could hide being upset."
"What're you talking about?"
"We're not meeting dad for a hunt," Sam said. "You aren't packed or stocked for a hunt. That's why I'm not carrying my gun, because you call or email, you never just show up. You guys aren't here for a hunt, so, what're you doing?"
Dean grimaced. "Don't be...aw, why do you have to be so damn suspicious all the time?"
"Hello," Sam said. "Pre law."
"Just shut up and enjoy the ride," Dean said. "Maybe I'll tell you once we get there."
"Seriously, I'm not four," Sam said. "What is this? An intervention? Barhopping? A long lost relative we're unearthing?"
"Um...maybe the last one, we never did figure it out," Dean said.
"Why didn't you just ask me?" Sam said. He looked as incredulous as he sounded.
Dean rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Sam."
"I'm serious, Dean," Sam said, leaning across the seat. "What made you think you had to make up some - "
"It wasn't made up," Dean interrupted. "There really is such a thing as a Birao ."
"Okay," Sam said slowly. "Why the imaginary hunt for a real spirit?"
Dean fidgeted with the steering wheel, then gnawed on a suspiciously well-trimmed thumbnail. "I know you're busy, that's all," he said. "Didn't think you'd come unless you thought you were needed for a job."
Sam turned his face away to grin. He was torn between amusement and a little guilt at the ruse and what had caused it. Dean probably wasn't completely off base, although Sam didn't want to believe he would just keep shoving his family away in favor of what he had at school.
"C'mon," Dean said. "You're all business these days. Sometimes you just have to...it's been pretty quiet, the big bads have been lying low the last few weeks. Life's like this. Random. There's a lot of stuff we missed as kids, and...hunting's still important and now school's important, but now that we're older sometimes we just have to do whatever we want. It's gonna be so easy to...I mean, our lives are so different, now."
It was as close to a speech as Dean ever got. And as close to mushy as Sam had ever seen him. They'd been apart for the first time in their entire lives over the last year, and Sam had just started his second year of school. They'd spent time together over the summer...
And now Dean was suffering a little withdrawal.
"Maybe we could be kids just a little longer," Dean said.
Sam couldn't help being a little touched. This was really mushy, for Dean.
"Dad said you'd figure it out pretty quick," Dean said. "I said I could distract you like always, and he said you'd know before we even got to Mountain View."
"You did your best," Sam said. "What're we really doing, Dean?"
"Just...spending the day together," Dean said. "Not to exclude Jess or anything. Really. Just...us guys, that's all. For once, not hunting. You'd have expected something around your birthday, so that was out. And it's early in the school year. So when it got quiet for me and dad...c'mon, you'll love it."
Sam wanted to be annoyed, but he had to laugh. This was one of the things he'd always complained about from roughly the age of twelve and up. He'd wanted to stay some places and leave others; stop and see things, take advantage of traveling all over to live life while they were doing it. They were always in a rush to get somewhere else, to take care of something else. It wasn't as if they'd never done anything fun. It had just been so haphazard. No way to make real plans.
There were finally doing something spontaneous that didn't involve a job or running like hell from a well-meaning neighbor.
Time and distance had allowed the brothers to finally see each other as familiar, missed companions and forget a lot of the little everyday annoyances. After growing up right in each other's faces, two months had been a long time apart.
Saying how much he loved the fact that Dean had missed him or how much he loved his brother would not be acceptable forms of showing his appreciation. Not yet, anyway. They were old enough to be adults but the transition to full emotional maturity would have to wait a little longer. So Sam stuck his fingers in his coffee and then shoved his hand into the neck of Dean's T-shirt.
"Aw, Sammy, goddamnit," Dean said. "You're gonna get it."
'Better than that supposed aftershave you've been wearing," Sam said. "What is it, Listerine?"
"Shut up, college boy," Dean said, but there was nothing even remotely approaching a rebuke in it. It was like saying I love you, too .
John was waiting for them in Mountain View at a Shell station just off El Camino Real. He got in the back, which further amused Sam, to the point where the hair-ruffling he got from behind was okay for once.
"Hello, kiddo," his father said. "How long'd it take you to drag it out of him?"
"Sam called it right off," Dean said. "He asked to look in the trunk."
"That's my boy," John said. "Betcha don't know where we're going though, huh."
Sam shrugged. "Whatever," he said. "About time we spent a day together. I don't care if it's underwater basketweaving."
"Leave your electives out of this," Dean said.
"An A is an A," Sam said without missing a beat.
"How's San Jose sound?"
Sam tried to make a connection to something going on in the area; some festival or concert or playoff game. He came up empty memory-wise. "Been there a few times," he said.
"I promised you guys something when we were through here back when you were about nine," John said. "It's ten years later, I know, but hey. Might be kind of kitschy, that kind of tourist stuff, but it's still worth looking at." He laid down in the backseat, folding his hands behind his head. "Drive, Dean. And watch the curbs, this time."
Sam glanced over the seat at his father, then eyed Dean carefully. "I can 't remember."
"You asked if we were gonna dig up a long lost relative and I said -"
"'Maybe'," Sam said. "You said 'maybe, we never did figure it out'." He looked out the windshield for a moment. When it occurred to him a moment later, he grinned. "You guys are nuts. We're finally spending a day together without trying to kill something, and you're dragging me to Winchester Mystery House ?"
"Yahtzee," John said.
"There's nothin' there," Dean said. "No real spirits. So it's totally not hunting. And, we might be related. Maybe. Sort of. Not through Sarah, though."
"She didn't have any kids that made it past childhood," Sam said, still grinning. "You guys are nuts."
"You already said that," Dean said.
Sam played it cool, slumping in his seat a little and sipping his coffee. It wasn't cool to be visibly happy about this. He was too old. But his dimples gave him away, just like they always had. They were not arguing, they were not hunting, they were just doing some normal tourist thing. Like families did. On an average weekend.
Dean snorted when he looked over and saw Sam's attempt to be nonchalant. "You want a muffin, dad?"
"Pass 'em back here, son," John said. Sam handed them over the back of the seat.
Yeah. It was still a perfect Saturday.
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