"We might have a problem.”
Sam wished there was a wall nearby that he could slam his head into. Of course there was a problem. He was studying for the first test in his Ethics and Constitutional Law class, which the professor promised would be hell on earth. Even though Connor said he already experienced hell on earth and his class was nothing like it, Sam was still studying his ass off.
They were on a tight hunting rotation this week. Both had major projects and tests due but the supernatural nightlife wasn’t increasing, so they never called in for someone else to take care of the problem.
“What’s the problem?” he asked, dreading the answer.
“I’m looking at a dead djinn.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Yeah. Except I’m not the one who killed it.”
Sam’s brow furrowed. “Maybe it just died?”
“Sam,” Connor’s exasperated voice said over the phone, “you kill them with a silver knife dipped in lamb’s blood. Since the djinn’s throat has been slashed, I think it’s safe to say he didn’t ‘just die’. Did you let hunters know we were stretched thin this week?”
“No. Did you call your dad?”
“I didn’t want him to worry.”
He snorted and his lips turned up at the corners. Telling Connor’s dad not to worry was like telling a bird not to fly. “So, if it wasn’t your dad and it wasn’t hunters, who was it?”
“Looks like we have new players in town.”
With a groan, he flipped his law book closed. “Need help with the body?”
“I’ve got it covered on this end, but we really need to figure out who took out the djinn. Think you can do some research?”
Sam already opened his laptop and was typing away. “Jess is having a girls’ night out with her friend Alexis again, so I’m free to look over this stuff. If you need to, head over here after you’re done. I’ll let you know if I find anything.”
They hung up and Sam spent the next hour looking over various websites for hunters. No one was in the area or even near the west coast. The farthest anyone checked in was Utah. With that dead end, Sam looked up more information in djinn. This was the first one Sam ever encountered but Connor knew what he was talking about when it came to demons opening up fantasy dimensions.
A knock on his front door broke his concentration. When he glanced out the peephole and saw Connor’s irritated face looking back at him, he chuckled and opened the door. “How did the…”
Sam trailed off when he noticed the woman standing behind Connor. He awkwardly cleared his throat and tried to play things cool. “How did the studying go?”
“You can relax,” Connor muttered as he stormed inside. “She knows.” He went straight to the kitchen and when Sam heard the refrigerator open and a beer bottle clink, he knew this wasn’t good.
He spun around to look at the woman again, who was now openly grinning at Connor. She was Connor’s height with long, straight brown hair and big blue eyes. Even though her shirt was ripped and had places where dirt and grass blades stuck to it, she was still the epitome of what his brother would have called “smokin’ hot”.
Not waiting for an introduction, she kicked her boots against the door frame to get the mud off and swiped at her dusty jeans. “Sorry about him,” she said lightly. “He’s pissed that I know who he is and he had no idea who I was.”
Without waiting for an invitation, she also walked past Sam. He stared at the empty doorway before closing the door and turned to face the new woman. “I’m sorry; who are you?”
She held out her hand with a grin. “Dawn Summers. Nice to meet you.”
He shook her hand numbly. “Sam Winchester.”
“You’re a hunter, too?”
The question shook him out of his surprised stupor. “I’m a what?” he asked nervously.
“I told you,” Connor said sullenly from the kitchen. Sure enough, he had an opened beer in one hand and was holding another out for Sam. “She knows. And take it. You’ll need it after tonight. Trust me.”
Sam took the beer and looked between Connor and Dawn, not understanding the tense undercurrent running between them. “Why don’t we all take a seat and talk this through?” he asked slowly. Connor took another drink of his beer when Dawn walked past him with a grin. He could already tell this was going to be a long night. …………………………
Sam stared in shock at Dawn. She just finished telling her story involving her sister, the Hellmouth, and every apocalypse she and her group of friends averted. If he never met Connor and hadn’t heard some of the crazy antics his father got up to, he never would have believed it.
And he finally understood some of the reasons Connor didn’t like Dawn too much. Her older sister had turned his father into a psychopathic murdering vampire during their relationship but then again, Connor’s father didn’t need too much of a push.
Dawn’s story took quite some time and Sam still had studying to do. He wasn’t the only one feeling lack of sleep, because Dawn stood up and stretched. “So where am I bunking?”
“You can’t stay here,” Sam said quickly, panic clear in his voice. “My girlfriend could come in any time and she can’t see you.”
“So?” Dawn asked. “Just tell her who I am and that I needed a place to crash.”
If only things were that simple. “She doesn’t know who I really am. She doesn’t know what Connor and I do.”
Dawn’s laugh was devoid of humor. “You’re really trying to keep that a secret from your girlfriend? Who sometimes lives with you?” She snorted. “Yeah, that’s going to work out well. There is no balance for people like us. Trust me. My sister tried it plenty of times and it never worked out. Hell, I’ve tried it. It’s useless.”
Connor stood up, his stance defensive. “Not everyone has a world of support around them like you.”
She put her hands on her hips and squared away with Connor. Sam felt the urge to jump behind the couch and take cover.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Whose father is the leader of the undead in Los Angeles with worlds of support? Literally? I would kill to have his access to all his research.” A dreamy expression came over Dawn’s face. “I mean, have you seen the library? I thought the Watcher’s Council had the market on demonology texts.”
“When were you with my father?” Connor asked in a low tone.
This time, Sam scooted toward the end of the couch away from both Connor and Dawn. Even though he only had his memories back for a year and was still coming to terms with the warring emotional conflicts in him, Connor was still very protective about his father.
Instead of giving an answer, Dawn shut her mouth quickly and turned away. “It was a while ago.”
Sam winced. She was a terrible liar.
“Why are you here, Dawn?”
With a huff, she turned back around. “He’s just worried about you, Connor.”
“Oh shit,” Sam muttered, melting into the couch. He hoped none of the backlash that was going to come from the impending emotional storm came his way. As much as he loved his father and was protective of him, Connor was fiercely independent and didn’t take kindly to his father’s “check-ups”.
“I can take care of myself. He knows that!” Connor snapped. “So you can scurry on back to him like a dutiful minion.”
Dawn’s eyes narrowed. “I am not
a minion, Connor Angel,” she said, stalking forward. She brought up her right hand and began poking him in the chest. “I was working on some rune translations. Angel had the books I needed. In return for looking at them, he asked if I would check up on you since he knew you were going to have a tough semester here at your prissy little school. I’m leaving in a week. Until then, you’re going to play nice and stop being so damn surly.”
Sam’s mouth was wide open as he watched the exchange and he could tell Connor was shocked as well. When Dawn spun around quickly to stare at him, he almost jumped. “Now, where can I sleep?”
“You can’t stay here,” Sam said apologetically. “But Connor’s place is empty and nice. You can crash there.”
The look he received from Connor promised painful retribution, but he was more scared of Jess coming over to find a strange woman in the apartment that he couldn’t explain.
“Fine with me,” Dawn replied before Connor could protest. “As long as Wonder Boy doesn’t snore, I’ll sleep anywhere. Before I go, bathroom?”
Sam pointed down the hall and Dawn disappeared into the bathroom. Connor was glaring at him. “You just volunteered my place for her
to spend her week? She can stay at a hotel or, better yet, go back to L.A. or wherever the hell she came from.”
“Dude, Jess would kill
me if she found Dawn here and you know that she won’t stay in any hotel. She definitely won’t leave. Let her play out her little mission for your dad and maybe he’ll leave you alone,” Sam reasoned.
“Yeah,” Connor said a grunt, “or he’ll take it as me saying I’m okay with a babysitter and I’ll have a permanent thorn in my side.”
He hadn’t thought of that, and he winced. “Well, maybe it won’t come to that. Until then, just keep her at your place, away from here, and I’ll take over your hunting nights as payment.”
“Screw that,” Connor said. “I’ll need to kill something after a week with her.”
Dawn finished up in the bathroom and came out, an expectant look on her face. “Well, what part of ‘I’m tired’ do you not understand?” she asked, stalking past both Connor and Sam. With a huff, Connor reluctantly followed. Before they left, Dawn stopped in the doorway and turned back to Sam. “Word from the wise? Tell your girlfriend the truth. If she really loves you, she’ll understand. Secrets this big just tear people apart.”
Sam just shrugged in response. With a dark glare, Connor slammed the door once the left, leaving Sam in his empty apartment again. …………………………
He would never tell Connor, but Sam thought Dawn was nice. He kind of liked her, unlike Connor, who ignored Dawn every time she was in the vicinity and couldn’t stand to be in the same room with her. It was impossible to keep her completely a secret, so she was introduced as a friend of Connor’s family. She and Jess bonded immediately and Luis flirted with her, something that amused Sam and pissed off Connor. But the thing that amazed him was that no matter how badly Connor acted, Dawn didn’t care. When he asked Jess about it, she just shrugged.
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” she asked, getting a glass of water from the kitchen sink. She filled another for him.
“Jess, if it was obvious, I wouldn’t have asked,” Sam said with a grin.
“Sam, he’s just embarrassed,” she explained, handing him the water. “Their parents are old friends, they grew up together, and now they’re sleeping together? He probably doesn’t know how to deal with it.”
Sam had just taken a drink of his water, but at Jess’s words, spit it out, choking as he tried to gasp in air. Instead of worrying about him, she laughed at his reaction. “You didn’t know? Connor didn’t tell you?” Still coughing, he shook his head. Jess laughed more. “She told me the first night.”
Once he stopped coughing and could finally speak, he looked at Jess in shock. “He’s sleeping with Dawn?”
Jess walked over and kissed him on the cheek. “Ask him yourself.”
“You’re sleeping with Dawn?” Sam asked loudly the next day as he met up with Connor to walk to their class together.
Connor punched him in the shoulder and didn’t hold back much. Sam was going to have a bruise, but he didn’t care. “Keep it down!” he hissed.
?” His jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!”
“It’s weird, okay?” Connor explained. “I mean, my dad and her older sister used to date. I can’t exactly explain that to our friends, but you have to see how weird this is for us.”
Sam snorted. “Apparently Dawn has no qualms about it, because she told Jess the first night they met.”
Connor’s hand wrapped around Sam’s arm and pulled him to a stop. “Jess knows? Did she tell Becky?” he asked urgently. “Because you know Becky will tell Zach and Zach will tell Luis and Luis will tell…”
“…everyone,” Sam finished. “She promised she wouldn’t tell anyone, even Becky. Your secret is safe.” Connor breathed a sigh of relief and they continued walking. “Dude, you’re such a freak.”
He got another punch to the arm for the remark, but it was worth it. And when Dawn left a week later, he pretended not to notice his friend sulking at her absence.…………………………
With the exception of Dawn’s short visit at the beginning of the semester, the end of Sam’s third year passed quietly. He and Connor contemplated when to take their LSATs, something they would need for law school. Sam knew that finals were going to be brutal and he didn’t feel comfortable enough taking the tests so soon after. The next time offered was October, and so he set his date. To ease his load for his final semester, Sam decided to take two courses offered in the summer.
The classes kept him busy so his boredom and loneliness was at bay. Once they were done, Jess flew down for two weeks and they decided to spend their vacation in San Francisco. On the last leg of his last summer as an undergraduate, Sam took another vacation to visit Connor in Los Angeles. The town was weird, and not just because it was teeming with supernatural activity.
All too quickly, summer ended and it was time for everyone to return to reality. Jess was now a permanent fixture at his apartment, not even bothering to sign up for housing. Because of his heavier class load, Connor decided to take the LSAT offered in December while Sam was ready in October. The day the envelope arrived with his test scores, he opened it with trepidation, but there was no need. All the extra time studying, the extra classes in the summer, and the hours spent going over his law books paid off and he lined up an interview to stay at Stanford. Jess wanted to get her Masters in Art History and wanted to stay at Stanford, and he wanted to be close to Jess.
She was proud of him and it shone on her face. She insisted on telling everyone and bragging about him wherever they went, even though it embarrassed the hell out of Sam.
But tonight was the worst. Sam was dreading this more than he dreaded the LSAT. Jess’s grip on his hand was firm. There was no way he could escape it. He hated Halloween but Jess insisted that he needed to celebrate his interview and his LSAT score with their friends at the Halloween party.
Jess stopped in front of him and Sam heard her sigh. He peeked over her nurses’ hat and grinned. Connor was waiting at the table, along with Becky, Zach, and Luis, but he wasn’t dressed in a costume, just his normal faded shirt and jeans. Sam grabbed the seat next to him.
“Where’s your costume, man?” Luis asked, delivering a round of shots to the table.
“I don’t do Halloween. I told you guys that already,” he replied. Before he could protest, a shot was dropped in front of him. He glanced over at Connor, who made a face and held up his own shot. Judging by the empty glasses in front of him, Luis had been pushing shots on the group for a while. Lucky for Connor, he could hold his liquor. With a sigh, Sam threw back the shot--whiskey--and grimaced.
“All right, I’m heading out.”
Sam glanced over at Connor in surprise. “But I just got here.”
Jess and Becky laughed when Connor rolled his eyes. “I’ve been here for nearly an hour. It’s not my fault you’re late. Besides, I have the LSAT in a month and a half, and unlike some people, I didn’t breeze through pre-law like it was a kindergarten math test.”
“Oh please,” Zach said with a snort. “Like you and your brain twin over here aren’t going to blow the rest of the country out of the water. What was his score again?”
Jess smiled as she looked over at Sam. “174.”
“And that’s good?” Luis said as he threw back a shot of his own.
“Scary good,” she confirmed.
Luis nodded and turned to Connor. “So now all you have to do is make a 175 or I will make fun of your girly ass for the rest of my life.”
He scoffed. “The highest score possible is a 180. I’ll be lucky to get close, but it would be nice. I could pick any school I wanted.”
Becky nudged Sam’s leg under the table to get his attention. “Where do you want to go? Harvard? Yale?”
Sam chuckled and ducked his head. Jess was grinning at him; she already knew about his plans. “I have an interview for the law school here on Monday. If things work out the way I want them to, I’ll have a full ride and get to stay.”
Everyone around the table toasted him and he got a few slaps on the back in congratulations. “How does it feel to be the golden boy of the family,” Zach asked.
Luis put another shot in front of him and while he normally would have stopped, after a question like that, Sam thought he deserved a few more drinks. “Ah, they don’t know.”
“Why not?” Becky asked incredulously.
“I would be gloating,” Zach said.
“Can you see Sam gloating? Because he’s always held his intellect over the rest of us in the past,” Connor said with a laugh, but Sam shot him a thankful look for sparing him a half-assed explanation.
Everyone else joined in the laughter, until Becky groaned. “Oh no, what’s he doing here?”
The group looked over to where a bunch of guys were crowded around a pool table, laughing loudly and pushing each other around. They were obviously drunk and trying not to sway too badly. In the middle of them was Brady. His ex-roommate showed up at random times to get drunk with the local alcoholics and druggies, constantly throwing his college failure in Sam’s face. He heard Jess sigh, and when he looked at her apologetically, she shook her head. “That’s his choice, Sam. You did what you could. If he wants to throw away his future in medicine, it’s his choice. Tonight, we’re here to have fun.”
Luis accentuated her statement by plopping a tray of shots in the middle of the table, but Sam only rolled his glass in between his fingers. He was watching Connor, who had his eyes narrowed in Brady’s direction. Sam nudged him and gestured over. “What’s up?”
Connor shook his head and turned away from the group. “It’s probably nothing. My senses are going nuts in here. I keep seeing demons but I have to remember they’re just costumes. Halloween always did suck. I think I’m going to do a quick patrol then head to bed. Dad said that Halloween is usually quiet, but that I shouldn’t get comfortable.”
Sam nodded. “You need help, you call.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yes, mother. Enjoy the rest of the night.”
Connor stood, slapped Sam on the back, and slipped through the crowded bar. Jess’s hand on his knee prompted him to turn back around. “Hey, are you okay?” she asked.
Sam made himself grin. “Yeah, I’m great. Although I’m cutting myself off. I swear it’s Luis’ life goal to get us all drunk.”
“I’m proud of you,” she said suddenly, leaning forward.
“For not getting drunk?” he asked with a small smirk. He loved the looks she gave him when she knew he was being a smart ass.
“For really applying yourself. You’re going to knock ‘em dead on Monday, get the full ride, and become an amazing lawyer.”
It was worth the grief he’d gone through to get here, he decided, as he looked into Jess’s smiling face. “What would I do without you?”
“Crash and burn,” she replied flippantly before pulling him into a kiss.…………………………
Since Connor volunteered to take the patrol, and since he promised it was going to be a light night, Sam went home with Jess. She immediately showered, put on her pajamas, and crashed into bed. Sam took his time, cleaning up the kitchen from the quick dinner they had before they hit the bar.
He was almost asleep when a crash sounded in the other room. Sam’s eyes popped open and he held his body as still as he dared. He could feel the body heat from Jess at his back, so it wasn’t her. Connor wouldn’t have made a sound, and would also text or call if he needed Sam.
Being as quiet as possible, Sam walked to the edge of the bedroom to see if he could identify who – or what - fell. He quickly saw the open window in the living room and his heart beat started to race. All of the windows were closed and locked; he’d checked them himself before he went to bed. He picked up a baseball bat he kept in the corner and slipped into the hallway, breathing deep and staying on his toes. Just as he looked around the corner, the clear shape of a man walked quickly through the other side of the house. Sam inhaled sharply before moving to intercept him.
Just as he predicted, the figure went through the kitchen and back into the living room. Sam waited in the shadow of the bookcase until the figure was almost completely in front of him, and he took a swing at the intruder.
Before the bat hit its target, the shadow whirled around, throwing his arm up and jabbing Sam quickly in the solar plexus. The bat was lost in the scuffle and Sam depended on his hand to hand to win the fight. He was swung around and a boot kicked his midsection, but he was able to remain upright.
The intruder clearly had training, getting in a lucky punch that made his jaw pop painfully. He let out a low growl and attacked harder, lashing out with a kick before his throat was caught in a tight grip and he was thrown the floor.
It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the face peering down at in him. Sam stared up in confusion, because the person looked a hell of a lot like his older brother.
Oh yeah. It was Dean.
Sam panted, trying to catch his breath and get his heart rate to calm down. “Dean?” His brother just chuckled lightly. “You scared the crap out of me.”
“That’s because you’re out of practice.”
He was a grown man and the statement made him feel like a child. Sam lurched up, using his left leg to latch around Dean’s back, and flipped their positions so that Dean was the one pinned to the floor.
“Or not,” he said with a grunt. “Get off me.”
Sam stood and helped Dean up off the floor. There was no greeting, inquiry of how school was, or what had been going on in his life in the years since they’d seen each other, and Sam preferred that. It made it easier to face his brother. “What are you doing here?”
“Well I was looking for a beer.”
He rolled his eyes. “What the hell are you doing here?” he asked, his tone firmer.
Sam saw in Dean’s eyes when he realized that the jokes and grins weren’t going to get him anywhere. “Okay, all right. We gotta talk.”
He’d been waiting for Dean to walk in and say that to him for years, but now that Dean was here, his words brought dread to the pit of Sam’s stomach. Instead of relief and acceptance, anger was bubbling up inside of him. “Uh, the phone?” he bit out.
Dean gave him the ‘you’re an idiot
’ look that he could clearly make out, even in the dim light. “If I’d called, would you have picked up?”
Two years ago, Sam would have said maybe, even though his dad’s order to stay gone still rang in his ears. One year ago, he would have said yes, because finding out about the nightlife around Stanford was almost too much for him and Connor. Now, judging by the sudden urge he had to punch Dean in the face for walking back into Sam’s life at the worst time possible, Sam was guessing no.
Before he could reply, the light switched on. Sam sighed in resignation when he saw Jess standing in the doorway, glancing at Dean before sending a questioning look. “Sam?”
Even though he was crap at it, Sam tried to play things cool. “Jess, hey. Dean, this is my girlfriend Jessica.”
“Wait,” she cut in excitedly, and Sam wanted to groan. He knew Jess longed to know more than he would divulge when it came to his family, and had on more than one occasion been jealous that he and Connor were close and knew secrets about each other. Meeting Dean was not the best crash-course introduction to the Winchesters, although Sam was sure his dad would have been worse. “Your brother Dean?”
“I love the smurfs,” Dean said with an easy grin as he pointed to her shirt, or more importantly to Dean, her chest. Then he started to walk over to her and Sam resisted the urge to pull him back by his jacket. “You know, I gotta tell you. You are way out of my brother’s league.”
Sam rolled his eyes, but noticed the grin on Jess’s face. He was half-hoping she would slap him, but it wasn’t in her nature to get violent. It was one of the reasons Sam dreaded hunting around Stanford in case she got involved.
“Just let me put something on.”
“No, no, no, I wouldn’t dream of it. Seriously,” Dean interrupted. Sam clenched his jaw, wincing a bit since it still smarted from the punch Dean delivered earlier in the scuffle. There was no need to worry though, because his brother backed off and came back towards Sam. “Anyway, I gotta borrow your boyfriend here, talk about some private family business, but, uh, nice meeting you.”
He froze at the words private family business
. He used the same quote with all of his friends over the years when he brushed off their questions abut his life before Stanford. It was an easy out in any conversation, but coming from Dean, the phrase brought up too many memories of cleaning guns and laying salt lines.
If things were truly important, Dean would have called; Sam walked over to Jess and put his arm around her. When Dean saw that Sam was happy, perhaps he would leave. “No. No, whatever you want say you can say it in front of her.”
Jess squeezed his middle and Sam took a deep breath, knowing Dean wouldn’t say anything about hunting in front of a civilian.
“Okay, um...dad hasn’t been home in a few days,” Dean said easily.
At first, Sam thought Dean was just joking with him, but his brother was serious. Growing up, their dad disappeared days on end and most of the time they never knew where he was. “So he’s working overtime on a Miller Lite shift. He’ll stumble back in sooner or later.”
His first hint that things were more serious than he thought was when Dean took a deep breath and actually looked up at Sam with something akin to apology. “Dad’s been on a hunting
trip, and he hasn’t been home in a few days.”
Sam’s gaze was locked onto his brother, even though Jess was looking up at him in confusion. His heart was racing and his arm went slack around her shoulders. “Jess, excuse us. We have to go outside.”
She nodded and Sam all but marched outside, pushing Dean out after him. As soon as the door slammed behind them, he leaned forward. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here, breaking into my apartment, and then telling me that dad’s on a hunting trip?”
“It’s not just that, Sammy. He’s missing, and I need your help.” Dean spun on his heel and descended down the stairs, leaving Sam to gape after him before rushing to catch up.
“That’s it? Seriously? I mean come on; you can’t just break in, in the middle of the night, and expect me to hit the road with you.”
Dean continued, either not caring that he was screwing up Sam’s semi-normal life or unaware of it. “You’re not hearing me, Sammy. Dad’s missing
. I need you to help me find him.”
Sam scoffed. “You remember the poltergeist in Amherst, or the devil’s gate in Clifton?” Those were only a few instances he could think of off the top of his head. “He was missing then too; he’s always missing and he’s always fine.”
Dean stopped and turned around. “Not for this long. Now you gonna come with me or not?”
Sam took a deep breath to steady himself. “I’m not.”
His brother honestly looked confused at his answer. “Why not?”
The lie nearly caught in his throat, and he realized he was being a complete hypocrite, but it was the only way to convince Dean he wouldn’t go. “Because I swore I was done hunting for good.”
Dean rolled his eyes at him. “Come on, it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t that
Sam didn’t care that he’d just lied outright to his brother, but he did care that Dean tried to make it sound like their life had been a walk in the park. “Yeah? When I told dad when I was scared of the thing in my closet he gave me a .45.”
“Well what was he supposed to do?”
“I was nine-years-old!” he retorted. “He was supposed to say don’t be afraid of the dark
They stopped right inside the iron gate leading out of the apartment complex. Dean glared at him. “Don’t be afraid of the dark?” he asked incredulously. “What, are you kidding me? Of course you should be afraid of the dark! You know what’s out there!”
Oh, he knew all too well. No matter how he tried to escape, the things that go bump in the night still caught up to him. “Yeah, I know, but still—the way we grew up after mom was killed, and dad’s obsession to find the thing that killed her, but we still haven’t found the damn thing, so we kill everything we can find.”
His brother was still unapologetic, and had hardened slightly at the mention of their mother. “Save a lot of people doing it, too.”
Two nights before, Sam and Connor saved a young couple who were attacked by vampires in an alley by the movie theater. Their grateful, tear-stained faces flashed in his mind, but he quickly pushed them aside. “You think mom would have wanted this for us?” Sam knew was pushing a bit too far, but if that’s what it took….
As an answer, Dean pushed the gate open angrily and walked out into the open air. “The weapon training and melting the silver into bullets? Man, Dean, we were raised like warriors.”
“So, what are you gonna do? You just gonna live some normal, apple-pie life? Is that it?”
Nothing about his life right now was normal, but it was loads better than the alternative. “No. Not normal,” he replied. “Safe.”
“And that’s why you ran away?” Dean scoffed, his disbelief plain.
Sam stared at Dean, his own disbelief stirring. “I was just going to college,” he said slowly. “It was dad who said if I was gonna go, I should stay gone. And that’s what I’m doing.”
That brought them back to why Dean showed up in the first place, and his brother nodded. “Yeah, well dad’s in real trouble if he’s not dead already. I can feel it. I can’t do this alone.”
Sam narrowed his eyes. “Yes, you can,” he ground out.
Dean broke his gaze and look off to the side. “Yeah. Well, I don’t want to.”
Sam knew Dean’s mannerisms, his speaking patterns; this was his brother’s way of admitting that he missed Sam, that he needed his brother. In the end, they were both two boys who grew up too much too fast, who had a father who was missing. He could do this for Dean. Sam sighed and caved. “What was he hunting?”
When Dean opened the trunk, Sam ignored the small grin on his brother’s face. “All right, let’s see. Where the hell did I put that thing?”
There was something that was bothering Sam with the whole ordeal. “So when dad left, why didn’t you go with him?”
“I was working my own gig,” Dean replied, rifling through the guns and knives stored in the trunk of the Impala. “This voodoo thing down in New Orleans.”
“Dad let you go on a hunting trip by yourself?” Sam asked, a small grin on his face. Their dad tried to keep them out of hunting as much as could, so it was strange for him to think of Dean having his own trips.
Obviously, it wasn’t that big of a deal with the look Dean gave him. “I’m 26, dude.” He found what he was looking for, and pulled out some papers. “All right, here we go. So dad was checking out this two-lane blacktop outside of Jericho, California. About a month ago, this guy...” Sam took the paper Dean gave him, “they found his car but he’d vanished, completely M.I.A.”
He was unimpressed. “So maybe he was kidnapped.”
“Yeah well, here’s another one in April, another one in December ’04, ’03, ’98, ’92. Ten of them over the past 20 years, all men, all same five mile stretch of road.”
Sam looked at the stack of papers Dean threw down as he rattled off the dates. He couldn’t refute the pattern, and sighed.
“Started happening more and more so dad went to go dig around. That was about three weeks ago. I hadn’t heard from him since, which is bad enough. Then I get this voicemail yesterday.”
Dean pulled out a small recorder. A voice Sam hadn’t heard in years broke the silence in the parking lot.
“Dean, something is starting to happen, I think it’s serious. I need to try to figure out what’s going on.
Sam leaned closer, trying to make out the words through the static.
“Be very careful Dean, we’re all in danger
Dean turned off the recorder at the end of the message.
Sam sighed. “You know there’s EVP on that?”
“Not bad, Sammy,” Dean replied with a grin. “Kind of like riding a bike isn’t it?”
He shook his head.
“All right. I slowed the message down, and ran it through a Gold Wave, took out the hiss, and this is what I got.”
This time, instead of their father’s voice and static, a woman’s voice whispered. “I can never go home
The voice brought a chill to his skin and he barely shivered. “Never go home,” he repeated softly. It was the same phrase he repeated to himself daily when he’d first arrived at Stanford. Fate had a sick sense of humor for bringing back his past with the same phrase. He was snapped out of his reverie when Dean threw all the information back in the trunk and slammed it shut. Sam stood awkwardly while Dean locked it up.
“You know in almost two years I’ve never bothered you. Never asked you for a thing.”
It was the truth, and with all the evidence against their dad, Dean made a case for needing Sam’s help. It would only be the once, and then he could go back to living his life the way he wanted. “All right. I’ll go. I’ll help you find him. But I have to get back first thing Monday.”
“What’s first thing Monday?” Dean asked, and Sam grimaced.
“I have this… interview,” he said slowly.
“What, a job interview? Skip it.”
Sam glared, unsurprised by Dean’s reaction. “It’s a law-school interview, and it’s my whole future on a plate.”
His brother looked honestly surprised. “Law school?”
Sam didn’t want to hash over the fine details of his college career. “So we got a deal or not?”
Dean nodded and Sam pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He didn’t want to leave Jess here alone, especially with the rise in demon activity. He sighed, flipping his phone open, and dialed.
Connor didn’t sound asleep, which was good, because when Connor lost sleep, even his parents didn’t want to mess with him. “I need you to come over. It’s an emergency.”
Sam heard Connor grab his things and a few metal clanks. “What’s up?”
“I’ve got to go out of town for a few days and I need you to watch out for Jess.”
Dean had been listening to the conversation, and Sam could tell he was less amused and more curious the farther the conversation went.
“What’s wrong?” Connor asked, and Sam took a deep breath.
“My brother’s here. There’s a family emergency.” There was silence on the other side of the line. “Connor?”
“He’s there to take you on a hunt, isn’t he?” Connor asked after a moment.
Mindful of Dean’s openly curious gaze, Sam licked his lips nervously and turned away from his brother. “Look, I can’t talk about it, but I don’t want to leave Jess here alone, so I was hoping you could crash in the spare room until I get back.”
“I’ll head over as soon as I can.”
“Thanks, Connor,” Sam said with a sigh as he flipped his phone closed. “Let me head back in and pack my stuff, then give Connor my key.”
Dean was still leaning against the trunk of the Impala, his gaze hooded. “Who’s this Connor person you’re trusting to watch over your girl?”
There was no way Sam could tell him who and what Connor really was, or that he and Sam had been taking odd hunting jobs around Palo Alto for over a year and a half. Instead, he settled for a half-truth. “He’s a pre-law major, like me. We’ve had tons of classes together, and he’s my good friend. I just feel better with someone in the apartment with Jess at night.”
Sam didn’t give Dean much time to argue before he went back inside the building and bound up the stairs, quickly entering the apartment and heading straight to the bedroom. He could hear the bathroom sink running and took advantage of the time Jess was in the bathroom to grab a few weapons he had stashed in a duffel before throwing some clothes on top.
Jess came into the room and stopped short when she saw him packing. ”Wait, you’re taking off? Is this about your dad? Is he all right?”
He let out a nervous chuckle and shoved more clothes into the bag, wincing when something metallic clanged. “Yeah, you know, just a little family drama.”
She didn’t look like she believed him as she sat on the bed beside the bag he was packing. “But your brother said he was on some kind of a hunting trip.”
Sam paused as he grabbed another shirt out of dresser, trying to think of a quick excuse that didn’t sound like complete crap. “Yeah, he’s just deer hunting up at the cabin and he’s probably got Jim, Jack, and Jose along with him. We’re just gonna go bring him back.” He looked up at Jess and felt guilt rising when he saw how concerned she looked. “But until I get back, Connor is going to stay here and make sure nothing happens.”
Jess blinked in surprise. “What? You’re making Connor babysit me?” She sounded incredulous and worse, angry.
“It’s not babysitting, Jess. You heard about that couple that got attacked last week, and the girl who was kidnapped the week before? I want you safe.” Sam pulled her into a hug. “I can’t lose you. Crash and burn, remember?”
She was tense in his arms, but she slowly relaxed. Sam cherished this moment with her in the quiet of their apartment.
The moment was ruined when Jess pulled away, crossed her arms, and glared at him. “What about the interview?”
“I’ll make the interview,” Sam replied with what he hoped to be a reassuring grin as he went back to the duffel bag. He zipped the bag up and tossed it over his shoulder. “This is only for a couple of days.”
Just as he was about to grab his keys, Jess stopped him by putting a hand on his arm. “Sam, please, just stop for a second. You sure you’re okay?”
Sam sighed and turned back to her. “I’m fine.”
Jess looked understandably upset. “It’s just…you won’t even talk about your family and now you’re taking off in the middle of the night to spend the weekend with them? And with Monday coming up which is kind of a huge deal.”
“Hey, everything’s gonna be okay. I will be back in time. I promise.” Sam kissed her and turned around, grabbing his keys and heading out the door. When Jess shouted after him to tell her where he was going, he pretended he couldn’t hear her anymore.
Connor was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, a smaller bag and his backpack by his feet. He glanced up when Sam got close. “Your brother’s an ass. You know that?”
Sam winced apologetically. “Sorry about that. What did he do?”
“Besides the military-style interrogation I just had and the many insults to my masculinity?” Connor slumped back further against the wall. “Do you know how hard it was not to punch him? He’s got a girly face, too.”
He bit his lip so as not to grin at Connor’s petulant tone. “Sorry,” he said again.
“Whatever,” Connor gruffly responded. “Are you going to tell me what this is about?”
Sam hitched up the duffel on his shoulder. “Dean just showed up and said that our dad has been out of touch after going on a hunt three weeks ago. I’m going with him to Jericho. That’s where dad was, investigating a bunch of deaths on a stretch of road.”
Connor looked unimpressed. “And what about Monday, Sam? Are you going to be back in time for your interview?”
“I’ll be back,” Sam said, exasperation creeping into his voice.
“We promised ourselves we would do what we could as long as we were safe, smart, and it didn’t interfere with our lives,” Connor said firmly. “This isn’t safe, smart, and is possibly going to interfere with one of the decisions that could impact the rest of your life.”
Sam snorted. “I’m sorry. Who ran off the week before finals to help his dad fight?”
Connor glared at him, not arguing the point. “Does Jess know the plan?”
“She thinks Dad’s drunk out in the woods and Dean and I are going to bring him back. That’s it.”
For the first time all night, Connor cracked a grin. “How did she take you running off and leaving her with me?”
“I have a feeling I’ll be sleeping on the couch next week.”
Connor laughed and held out his hand for Sam’s keys. With a sigh, he gave them to Connor and headed outside. “I’ll call with updates and to check on Jess. See you Monday.”
Sam threw his bag into the backseat of the Impala and folded himself into the passenger seat. He buckled his seatbelt, and he felt like the past three years never happened. Still, this was a bit different, even as Dean handed him his research on the case and a map. He had a home to come back to, with friends and a girl counting on him returning in one piece. He had a safe life to come back to, and as he looked over more information on the men disappearing in Jericho, his resolve to stay safe strengthened.
“So I heard you were a jerk to Connor,” Sam began as they pulled away from the apartment complex. “He’s my best friend. You didn’t have to do that.”
Dean snorted. “I just wanted to make sure some monster wasn’t creeping up on you. He looked shady.”
“He looked shady?” Sam asked skeptically. “That’s the best you’ve got?”
“It’s the truth!”
“He’s doing me a favor, Dean,” he replied. “I’ll probably owe him another because of your comments.”
Dean rolled his eyes. “Yeah, he’s protecting your girl or whatever. For one thing, I doubt anyone that small could be able to defend against teddy bears let alone burglars.”
Sam half-hoped he would be able to witness Connor tossing Dean across the green one day. “Yeah, and?”
Judging by the grin on Dean’s face, what he had to say next wasn’t complimentary. “You don’t have to worry about your girl doing the horizontal tango with your friend.”
A small smile crept onto his face. “And why is that?”
“She’d have to be a lesbian to go for a man that girly.”
Sam chuckled and went back to reading.