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Living Conditions

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Living Conditions". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: The apocalypse is over, the world is safe and Dawn's looking forward to her first year at Stanford. Unfortunately, Buffy's having trouble letting go, prompting Dawn to seek a distraction for her overprotective sister to focus on. Enter Sam Winchester.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Buffy-Centered > Pairing: Sam Winchester(Recent Donor)SweetChiFR152062,2986237757,73416 Jan 115 Mar 11Yes

Chapter Two

Disclaimer: I own nothing, am making no money from this and am doing it purely for enjoyment.

Chapter Two

Sam sat quietly in Dawn's Honda Civic as they rolled down the suburban street while Dawn went on about how it would be an easy commute to campus. Close enough for him to ride a bike if he wanted, she said. Then she even offered to leave her car for him. Sam mentally shook his head at her thinly veiled desperation as he watched the setting sun tint the upper-class neighborhood with fading orange light.

Sam had been around his dad and brother enough to know a con when he saw one. He wasn't sure yet whether Dawn Summers was outright lying to him or if she was playing him or if she just had an agenda of her own, but the sad fact was that it didn't matter - he was currently homeless.

If he got reported by another roommate, he wasn't sure what would happen. It wouldn't be pretty though, he was sure. Not after Les had thrown such a fit over the salt first year (after long hours of studying, Sam would just fall into habit before he stumbled to bed, automatically salting the doorways and windows). Then Jackson in the second year… That had been bad. There'd been a restless spirit focusing on his roommate and Sam was having problems locating the bones, so he'd drawn protective wards around the room in order to try and keep the guy alive. Unfortunately, that left him vulnerable outside the room and he was constantly harassed by the ghost, making him paranoid that Sam's symbols were putting the hoodoo on him. Both had complained to the RA and Sam had barely gotten out of it by pleading it was a religious family thing.

It seemed you could take the boy out of the freakishness, but not the freakishness out of the boy.

And now this. Jesus, he was an idiot. He'd kept his gun when he left home (or whatever crappy motel that was passing for it at the time), a 9mm that Dean had given him on his 16th birthday. Every other weapon he'd left behind, but he couldn't force himself to leave that gun. Dean had probably hustled pool behind their dad's back for a year to put back enough to afford it. It was the only thing he'd kept to remind him of his family.

He'd had the gun out, cleaning it while Josh was in class, when he realized how late it was, he had his own class to be getting to. Being in a hurry, he must not have made sure the lock box was completely latched when he put it away because later on, when Josh was looking for something his closet (he claimed it was notes but Sam had a feeling Josh thought he had weed stashed somewhere), he'd opened the box and freaked about the gun. Sam had tried to explain that it was a gift, sentimental value and all that. Josh had calmed down after his explanation, but had still kicked Sam to the curb.

So, this situation was actually the perfect fix. He'd still technically be listed as Josh's roommate, so no problems with Stanford Housing (again), and he'd have a place close by to live.

Or it would be perfect if only he actually knew what he was getting into…

Dawn Summers was… strange. Beautiful and obviously smart, but to be honest, aside from the offer of a place to live, Sam could have done without meeting her - she was flat out insane. He was more worried about her sister having a sibling like Dawn, who offered to let strange guys live with her, than about the girl's bad luck. He wondered how many of the bad things that happened to Dawn's sister were because of her Dawn herself…

The car started to slow, pulling him out of his thoughts, and Dawn turned into a drive on the left. The house was beautiful. And far too large for just one person, too big for just two truth be told.

"My sister wanted some space," Dawn said, apparently noticing his appraisal of the house. "There were friends living with us for a while at our last place. And then we took in some other people that needed help. It got a little crowded. I think she went kinda mental about sharing a bathroom, so she went a little overboard when she was picking this place out."

Yeah, no kidding. Two stories and a dark tan stucco, the front was loaded with windows and a wide front porch. The front yard was nicely manicured and had a few large, beautiful trees. It was hard to tell in the fading light, but Sam would guess it probably had about four or five bedrooms.

"Uh-oh," Dawn giggled, as she snuck a peek at the neighboring house, putting the car in park. Sam followed her gaze and saw the curtains slightly parted in the front window and the faintest hint of a face peering out. "Mrs. Stanowski's looking. Probably thinks you're here for the meth lab."

"The what?"

"Ms. Stanowski's a little different and a lot nosey. She also doesn't like my sister much - always claiming she's up to something over here. She even called the cops once when the lights were flickering. It was just some short in the wiring, but she swore it was because Buffy was running a meth lab in the basement. The house doesn't even have a basement."

Many things were going through Sam's mind at this declaration, but the thing that he got stuck on was…

"Buffy?"

"Don't pick on my sister's name," Dawn said, stopping mid-reach for the door handle and turning her gaze on him. Blue eyes that were filled with laughter before went flat and cold in a way that would have made Sam sweat had he not grown up the way he had. Still, he wasn't stupid.

"Sorry," he said, holding up his hands in surrender. "It's just an unusual name."

She watched him a second longer before nodding, satisfied, and got out of the car. Sam followed and eyed the house again. There was a warm yellow light illuminating the white curtained windows and the front porch had a large swing on one side and two rocking chairs on the other. Looking down at the walkway, he noticed it was swept clean and the shrubs were perfectly trimmed. The grass also looked well manicured. Sam was just wondering about the landscape company that she must hire and the amount of money apparently in the bond business when Dawn started speaking again.

"Okay, you can't let her know you're here to watch out for her," Dawn told him as they approached the house. "Just make it out like I'm doing you a favor, because you needed a place to live. She's the… bounty hunter after all, she'll never admit to needing someone around to watch out for her."

"So, I'm supposed to play the role of the sad homeless college student," Sam asked sardonically.

Dawn snickered, "I think you'll manage. I mean, it's not really a stretch, is it?"

Sam rolled his eyes, but nodded. He didn't like it, but after what Dawn had offhandedly said about the flickering lights and about thinking her sister was cursed, he wanted to be sure nothing supernatural was going on here. It could be nothing, probably was, but it really wasn't safe for her to be here all alone until he knew for sure.

Plus, he really needed a place to live.

Dawn sifted through her keys and found the right one, putting it in the door while Sam examined the porch now that they were closer. It was… nice. He actually really liked it. A swing and rocking chairs seemed a little cheesy at first, but the porch looked over the beautiful yard with its big trees and across the street there were more trees in an empty lot. The street was quiet, probably only getting the little bit of residential traffic from her neighbors. He could actually see himself sitting out here with book or something…

Dawn clicked the heavy deadbolt back and pushed the front door open, yelling in a loud obnoxious voice as she did, "BUFFY! YOU HERE?"

Sam cringed away from her as her voice echoed down the previously peaceful street. Maybe Buffy had been expecting Dawn to live with her when she moved here, but he was sure her neighbors were grateful her sister only made the occasional visit. Shaking his head, he followed her into the entrance. It was immediately obvious to him that no one was home. Knowing if a house was empty or not was a skill acquired from being raised to do a lot of breaking and entering.

"Crap, where is she?" Dawn muttered with a pout when no one answered her call.

The entry was immaculate and uncluttered. There was a table off to the side that was empty except for a small stack of mail addressed to Dawn, which she quickly snatched up and sifted through before tossing back down. There was a stand with an umbrella in it right next to the door and what Sam guessed was a coat closet to the right, but that was it. The tiled floor gleamed and there wasn't a speck of dirt or dust anywhere. He was starting to see a pattern here…

Dawn was looking around, shaking her head. "Buffy's had too much time on her hands lately," she said in disgust. "Since she cut back on the… bounty hunting, she hasn't really known what to do with herself. She cleans the house and works in the yard and tries to bake. Buffy should be banned from the kitchen, I've never seen someone do something over and over and never get better at it. DO NOT eat her cooking unless you want botulism."

Dawn led him through the house, and sure enough, everything was spotless. The furniture was all new, large and plush, the carpet was thick and the walls freshly painted. It would easily be the nicest place Sam had ever lived. Walking through the large gourmet kitchen, black appliances and marble countertops gleamed back at them, but Dawn bypassed them all for the door on the far side. Pulling it open, Sam could hear the echo in the empty space beyond and knew immediately it was the garage he'd spotted when they'd pulled up.

"Yep, she's gone," Dawn sighed, pulling out her phone muttering. "Dammit, where is she?"

Sam wandered over to the fridge, the only place he'd seen anything personal in the house so far - pictures cluttered the front. Dawn was scattered throughout the photos as were numerous other people. A cute little redhead with a sweet smile, a dark haired guy with an eye patch (must be another bounty hunter…), an older guy with graying hair and glasses - their dad maybe? But it was the blond that caught his attention, short and cute, she was smiling in a close up picture with Dawn, but something about her eyes… they looked old, like she'd seen too much. Actually, now that he'd picked up on it, they all looked a little like that, the blond just more so.

"Our old house was destroyed," Dawn said coming up next to him. "We only have pictures from the last year…"

She sounded really sad about that, a different side to the loud, cocky girl he'd met earlier today. Noticing his assessment, she shrugged, trying to fit her face into a nonchalant mask and failing.

"My mom, she died a few years ago and we don't have any pictures of her. There were also a few friends we lost. I wish…" Her voice faded and she shook her head. "Anyway, we kinda go crazy with the picture taking now. This is Buffy," she said, pointing, her voice stronger.

So that was Buffy… the blond with the sad eyes… She didn't look anything like her sister. Dawn was tall, brunette and blue eyed, while Buffy was short, blond and green eyed. Neither one of them looked like the guy with the glasses.

Dawn went on, giving a rambling commentary of who was in the pictures - Willow, the redhead, Xander, the guy with the eye patch and Giles, the guy with the glasses, were in the most along with Buffy and Dawn. Dawn explained how Willow and Xander helped with the bounty hunting in the early days and Giles was kind of Buffy's mentor, taught her all she needed to know about it. Dawn made it out like Buffy had taken the job on after their mom died to make ends meet, but Sam got the feeling she wasn't telling the whole truth there. She told him about how Giles and Buffy ran their own bonding company now and Willow and Xander helped with it. It had grown to the point where they had enough bond enforcement agents that those three could stick mostly to the paperwork end of things and Buffy could spend her time here in Palo Alto.

"Buffy wanted a chance at a normal life," Dawn said, something bitter in her words that made Sam turn his gaze on her. "That's why she came here, trying to live some apple pie life with me."

Sam's breath caught at that particular phrase and he swallowed hard. She'd lived a crazy life and wanted something normal…

"What's wrong with that," he bit out. Dawn blinked and turned away from where she'd been studying the pictures to look at him. "What's wrong with her wanting a normal life?"

"Because she's driving me crazy!" Dawn burst out. "Buffy wasn't meant to be Susie Homemaker! She doesn't belong here and she's trying too hard to make herself fit!"

Dawn's words hit him like a punch to the stomach and he felt an anger that only his dad had been able to pull out of him.

"So she wants something new? A life that's not all about hunting- criminals? A life like everybody else has? Who the hell are you to tell her she doesn't fit?"

Instead of firing back like he expected her too, Dawn went silent and eyed him shrewdly before muttering, "Wow, over identify much?"

Sam flushed and turned away, trying compose himself. Her words had brought back too many memories of that last fight with his dad. The way he claimed Sam was deluding himself, thinking he could live like other people - in the dark, ignorant, pretending the bump in the night was really just the house settling. And most of all he was pissed because he'd been here three years, three years, and he still hadn't been able to accomplish that.

"Well, at least you two will get along," she said dryly, walking out of the kitchen. "Come on, I'll give you the tour while we wait. I tried calling, but she didn't answer. If she was planning on going out of town for the night she would have left me a message, so I'm sure she'll show up eventually."

Sam felt himself calm down as Dawn showed him around. His anger draining away and being replaced by curiosity as they went on their tour. The house was filled with muted colors and fluffy furniture, four bedrooms and a home office upstairs (which Dawn told him to stay out of), she also pointed out which room was Buffy's but told him he could have his pick of the other three. Each room had their own personal bathroom, making him smile as he remembered Dawn talking about how sharing a bathroom had made her sister crazy. Back downstairs there was another bathroom, the living room, which he'd already seen, a formal dining room with a table to seat six, and a huge workout room that had his jaw falling open.

"There used to be another room and a den down here, but Buffy had them combined for this," Dawn said, sounding approving for once.

The plush carpeting in the rest of the house was absent here, or at least hidden by the thick mats that covered the floor. The room was pretty much empty, except for a heavy bag hanging to the left. It was the first thing he'd seen in the house beside the pictures that had any character. Battered and worn, he wondered if it had been new, like everything else, when she moved in.

The emptiness was a little strange though - didn't most California girls obsessed with fitness have treadmills and stair-climbers and other stuff like that? He'd opened his mouth to ask when they heard the front door open. Dawn turned and grabbed his sleeve, snapping off the light and pulling him behind her toward the entrance. In the brief glance he got of her face before she hurried ahead, he could see apprehension. It made him feel a little better that he wasn't the only one nervous about letting Buffy in on the fact he'd be living here.

God, what was he doing?

As they approached the foyer, he could hear soft, angry muttering.

"…so gonna stain… in my hair… never gonna come out…"

"Oh crap," Dawn breathed, stopping when she reached the entryway. Sam, a good half a foot taller than her, easily looked over her head.

Buffy stood frozen on one foot, the other in the air as her hands had stopped mid-motion of pulling her shoe off. Wide green eyes stared at them like a deer caught in the headlights. Oh, and she was covered head to toe in some kind of muddy slime.

Dawn let out a long suffering sigh and shook her head, "Buffy… what the hell?"

Buffy blinked at her sister and then her eyes traveled up to Sam. He had to fight not to smile at the look on her face - she was even cuter than her pictures. She must have seen the amusement on his face and thought he was laughing at her though, because her shocked look melted into one of embarrassment and she dropped her eyes and resumed pulling off her other shoe. Feeling guilty, Sam opened his mouth to say something nice, anything to wipe that mortified expression off her face, but Dawn cut him off.

"Must have been after an FTA? Right Buffy?"

So busy watching a hunk of slime slide out of Buffy's hair, Sam took her confused "A huh?" for an affirmative "Uh-huh".

"Yep, gets messy when you're chasing after those criminals," Dawn said, over enunciating her words oddly. "I know we weren't going to tell people about you being a bounty hunter, but Sam here's a special case."

When Sam pulled his eyes away from the hypnotizing sight of the sludge spreading on the tile, Buffy's mortified look had melted into confusion and was now morphing into furious understanding. "Right," she bit out through clenched teeth. "I'm a bounty hunter. And you told… Sam, was it? About that?"

Buffy was giving her sister a death glare that made Sam want to step away from Dawn, not wanting to get any residual anger on him that was aimed at her. He guessed Buffy didn't want people to know what she did, probably because it didn't really fit into the nice suburban Palo Alto life she was aiming for here. He could understand that only too well.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped around Dawn, giving Buffy his brightest smile.

"Hi, I'm Sam Winchester."

Buffy stared up at him and then looked down and his extended hand, then her gaze went to her own hand which was covered in some kind of brown goop. A faint smile pulled at the corners of her lips and her eyes softened - she really was prettier in person than in those pictures. Even under all the crap.

"How about we save the hand shaking, Sam," she said. "I don't want to contaminate anyone else."

Sam huffed out a small laugh, "Yeah, looks like you found a little trouble. What exactly is that?" He leaned closer, curious about the weird slimy strings sliding off her onto the previously immaculate entry floor. "Might be radioactive, what if you end up with superpowers or something?"

His eyes met hers again, smiling and still reaching for innocent and charming, completely non-threatening. Buffy was looking back at him with wide eyes that made him wonder if he'd inadvertently made a wrong move, then she broke out laughing.

"Right, superpowers! Wouldn't want that, huh?" She stepped back and went to work pulling off her other shoe. "So, is Sam your new boyfriend, Dawn?"

"No!" Sam blurted out, a little louder and more forcefully than he intended. He cringed a little at his rudeness, but it couldn't be helped. The thought of having Dawn as his girlfriend was… well, horrifying.

Dawn pouted and crossed her arms, while Buffy looked like she was caught between laughing and being offended on her sister's behalf.

"I mean, I'm not-"

"He's going to live here," Dawn cut in, minus even a trace of tact.

"I'm sorry," Buffy said, shaking her head and sending another blob of slime splattering onto the ground. "I thought you said this guy was going to be living here."

"He is. His roommate's a huge asshole and he can't stay there anymore," Dawn said, bending the truth easily. "I told him he could stay here."

"Dawn, you can't just-"

"You said it was my room, right?" Dawn interrupted, putting her hands on her hips. "That I could use it any time I wanted? Well, I want to use it now - to let Sam live in."

Buffy gaped at Dawn's bizarre reasoning and Sam had to force himself not to do the same, he just concentrated on looking not huge and scary - just a pathetic homeless college student. As he watched them, he realized there actually was a family resemblance he hadn't noticed when he saw the pictures, he could see it now - they both had the exact same pissy look.
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