Noticing the differences

Okay this story is in response to a challenge on the Purely Supernatural forum.

What if John had also been killed by the demon?

One shot, clearly AU, no spoilers.

As always, they're not mine, don't sue, yadda yadda yadda

She watched Sam as he stood in the kitchen of their tiny apartment alternating his gaze between the oven door and the wall clock in front of him that seemed to have slowed down since he'd started watching it so intensely.

"Hey," Jessica said to acknowledge her presence leant against the doorframe, startling Sam who was lost in thought.

"Dinner's nearly ready." He said peering at the oven again, a frown on his face.

"Maybe you should call him again." Jess suggested.

Sam nodded, slipping his cell phone from his pocket and drawing Jess in for a hug and a quick kiss as he dialled, his arm draped over her shoulder. Jess nestled into his chest as they both listened to the phone ring but it rang out until the voicemail message clicked in. Sam hung up without leaving a message.

"I'm sorry." Sam apologised, his head hung in disappointment so that he peered at her through his dark hair. "We should have gone to your parents for Christmas again. But I really wanted you to meet my brother. He promised he would be here."

"Sam it's okay." Jess smiled, giving him another kiss. She wasn't sure if it was or not, but she could never resist Sam's disappointed face. "I'm sure he'll be here." 'And he's better have a good excuse for being late.' she thought after.

Sam nodded but Jess could tell he wasn't convinced. Just then though there was a knock at the door.

"See all you need is a little faith." Jess grinned as Sam practically ran out of the kitchen and through the living room to the door.

He flung the door open, behind which Dean stood grinning tiredly. Jess was right behind him but did a double take when she got to the door. The man stood there was filthy from head to foot, holes in his jeans and heavy biker boots caked in mud. Still, she caught herself and smiled brightly while the brothers hugged each other.

"Hi I'm Jess." She smiled, offering him her hand. His face was handsome, maybe beautiful once but worn before it's years and marred by a large scar that ran from his hairline down the right side of his face. When he saw her though, wiping his hand on his jeans before taking hers and kissing it, he gave her a grin that seemed to take the years off and despite herself, Jess felt herself grin stupidly back.

"Hi, I'm Dean. Sorry I'm late." He glanced at Sam and pulled an 'I'm impressed' face as Sam opened the door and gestured for him to come in. He stepped into the apartment and looked around. It was small but cosy, with think carpets and a comfy sofa, a large bookshelf in the corner groaning with a mix of novels and heavy text books. A small Christmas tree stood in the corner by the little dining table, it's lights and colour coordinated baubles shining brightly. Dean pulled an amused face and uttered a little "huh" before turning back to his brother.

"Hey Sammy, mind if I take a shower, I've just had a few days of all kinds of crazy."

"Sure," Sam pointed him in the direction of the bathroom. "But be quick because dinner is almost ready."

Dean laughed and shook his head, "My little brother all domesticated. Have I taught you nothing? I wont be long."

Jess shot Sam a look as Dean disappeared into the bathroom. 'What is up with him?'

Sam just shrugged his shoulders 'That's my brother.'

'All kinds of crazy and yet they were acting as if nothing had happened.' Jess thought to herself, 'at least dinner should be interesting.'

When Dean reappeared, clean-shaven and dressed in wrinkled and worn but clean shirt and jeans, dinner was already set up at the small table. Jess watched him, intruiged as he walked over, there was a relaxed smile on his face but his hands were fisted into his pockets and he wriggled his toes in the carpet, aware of the holes in his socks.

"Wow Sammy, I'm impressed." he grinned as the three of them sat around the table.

"I'd hold back judgement until you taste it." Sam warned.

"He wouldn't let me lift a finger in the kitchen today either, so I'm not to blame." Jess joked.

"Well, cheers. Merry Christmas." Sam held up his glass and the two others joined him, chinking them together.

They all went quiet for a moment as they all began to eat.

Attempting to break the silence Jess asked, "So where do you live at the moment? Still in Kansas?"

Dean looked up caught off guard by what Jess had deemed a simple question, certainly not one of the ones she really wanted to ask, 'where did you get that scar? why did you arrive late and filthy? define all kinds of crazy'.

He thought a moment, chewing his lip subconsciously as he did. " I don't really live anywhere. I have my car, she's beautiful and I guess I live in her. I travel around a lot."

"Oh, and what job allows you to do that?"

There was another pause, "I'm sort of..." he thought of a way to phrase it. "I'm kind of in security. But I work freelance, working wherever I'm needed."

Jess looked confused and was about to ask another question when Sam jumped in.

"Jess is studying medicine at Stanford, she's in the same year as me."

Jess looked at him but took the hint and kept her questions to herself.

Dean took the change in conversation and ran with it. "Really? Sammy probably told you that he thought about coming a doctor too once. But he's real squeamish, becomes a real girl at the sight of blood. So you've gotta tell me, how did you guys meet?"

Despite the shaky start dinner was a success and as long as the conversation stayed away from Dean he became relaxed and fun, joking and teasing Sam all night while showing genuine interest in Jess and their current life. After her initial apprehensions, Jess found she was enjoying herself, although every so often she realised that the man sitting at the table was still a complete stranger, having revealed no more about his life than a few childhood anecdotes for the purpose of ridiculing his younger brother. She found herself yearning for more information about him, the scar on his face and the other one that was just visible disappearing into his sleeve that was so large and thick it impaired some of the movement in his left hand worried and intrigued her simultaneously, and the enforced secrecy sent her imagination into overdrive, imagining elaborate stories in place of any real facts.

As the conversation lapsed again into a childhood memory she watched them, and wondered what could have happened to make the two brothers so different, one a pre-law student already settled and who, she hadn't failed to notice lingered a little as they walked past a shop that had wedding rings on display, the other a rough and apparently homeless vagabond whose occupation sounded questionable at best. Yet here they were talking and laughing as though they were the closest brothers in the world. Deciding for now just to enjoy the evening she sat back in the sofa, cradling a glass of wine and listened to them talk.

The evening didn't end until the early hours of the morning when they'd drunk all the beer and wine and Dean had finally crashed out on the sofa.

"So," Jess whispered as she covered Dean with a spare blanket and joined Sam in the kitchen where he was washing the dishes. "You're brother is very intriguing."

Sam gave a half smile "Did you have a good night?"

"Yeah, I did." But she found she couldn't let it drop. "Where did your brother get those scars?"

Sam turned from the sink so that he could look into her eyes. "The one on his arm, he's had since I can remember. You know I told you my parents died in a fire, well the only reason I'm not dead too is because Dean pulled me out."

"But I thought you were only a baby. He can't be much older than you can he?"

"Four. He was four years old when he first saved my life, carried me from a burning building. He burnt his arm so badly getting me out of my crib that they spent the next two years operating on it."

Jess realised her jaw was hanging open and she closed it. "Wow." she said breathlessly in awe. "No wonder you two were so close."

"He's looked out for me ever since. I mean, we had plenty of foster parents and the majority of them were great people but it was really Dean who brought me up."

"That's amazing."

Sam nodded sadly. "It screwed him up though. We moved around so much that now he can't seem to settle anywhere. I mean I don't hear from him for months at a time and then I'll get a phonecall or he'll show up always covered in cuts and bruises or worse and he won't tell me what it is he does, or where he's been." Sam lowered his voice still further as he discussed that which he knew he shouldn't be telling anyone. "You see, our parents death really affected him. When we were kids he was convinced that they had been taken by a demon, obsessed over it, was paranoid all the time that it was going to come and get us too. He stopped talking about it after a while though, when he knew no one would believe him. Everyone thought he's outgrown the idea. But, I don't know, some things he says, I think he still believes and that he's hunting it."

Jess peered through the open door into the living room where Dean snored softly. He appeared to be sleeping peacefully but there was a frown on his face as he lived through some kind of nightmare. "And what do you believe?"

Sam shrugged, "If he needs to believe that for him to deal then that's okay for me. I love my brother, that's enough."

Hope you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas everyone.