Supernatural isn't mine.
So, you guys sick of me yet? Day five, and I can more or less see the finish line from here... Many, many thanks to everyone who's been reading along and commenting -- I'm so pleased you guys have been enjoying what I've come up with so far ;).
Today's offering: no spoilers, pre-series. Stanford! Hope you enjoy.
One Sang High and the Other Sang Low
"Sam? Sam, are you even listening to me?"
Sam screwed up his face and sighed. "Yeah. Yes, OK, I've got one. A brother."
Jess grinned, white teeth flashing in her tanned skin, and said, "I've always wanted a brother," and Sam felt a sudden pang which he covered up by taking an extra-big gulp of coffee, which of course led to him practically choking to death, because what could be a better way to impress this girl (this girl, who was maybe the most beautiful thing Sam had ever seen) than by coughing and wheezing all over her until his face had gone as red as her nail polish?
On the other hand, his impromptu fit of idiocy did distract her from asking any more questions about his family, and Sam was grateful for that.
Finals for freshman year were coming up rapidly, and Sam was ready for them, had been studying himself into the ground (failure is not an option), but there was no harm in being over-prepared, and he was planning on spending the entire week leading up to his first exam in the library. It was typical, then, that students would start going missing just then, and even more so that Sam would just happen to notice ritual markings carved in the tree bark near where one of them had disappeared (because he hadn't been looking, obviously, he had other things to think about, other goals to pursue). And maybe Sam did spend his time in the library looking up the significance of the markings rather than memorising case files, but it was just intellectual curiosity, trying to work out which stupid secret society was fooling around this time, nothing more to it than that.
And then there was Jess leaning over his shoulder, her blonde curls so long they brushed against his fingers on the keys, saying I've seen that symbol before, and Sam closed down the window straight away, because it wasn't like he had anything to hide (there was nothing wrong with intellectual curiosity after all), but on the other hand, he didn't need to look any weirder in front of this girl (this girl, who made his stomach lurch every time he saw her) than he already did.
"Huh," he said. "Just a weird pop-up."
Jess frowned and shrugged, and asked him for coffee, and even though finals were coming up (and people were disappearing), Sam said yes.
"Does it snow where you grew up?" Jess asked, and Sam grinned, because the question was a total non-sequitur and it made his heart swell in his chest anyway.
"Yeah, I guess," he said, because he didn't want to talk about him, didn't want to talk at all, just wanted to listen to her voice for the rest of his life.
Jess raised an eyebrow. "You guess?" she asked. "You don't know?"
Sam shrugged, and suddenly realised he'd strayed onto dangerous ground without even noticing. Stupid, stupid. "I kind of grew up all over. We moved around a lot."
"Oh yeah?" she leaned forward, and Sam caught a waft of perfume, and underneath it the smell of sweat and skin, sweeter than anything fashion could come up with. "How come?"
"You know," Sam said. "Family stuff." And he got up to buy more coffee.
It was definitely a coven, and a very specific kind at that. Eastern European, most likely gypsies, Sam thought. There was a book he needed, but it was checked out of the library and if he bought it it would mean going without food for a week. He almost bought it anyway, but then Jess asked him round to her dorm room and he saw she had it on her shelf (of course she did, she was an anthropology major, how could he have forgotten), and when he left the next morning with the smell of her skin still clinging to him, it was hidden in his bag.
He didn't reciprocate the invitation, but a day later she was standing on his doorstep anyway, and he knew he should tell her to go away, but he just. Couldn't. He offered to go out, but she wanted to come in, and she smiled so bright that he was dazzled into stepping back from the door.
She ran her fingers over his desk and said, "Are you moving out?"
Sam shook his head, wondering where the question was leading and trying frantically to remember where he'd left her book.
"Then where's your stuff?" she asked, and Sam felt a dull flush creep up his face, because he hadn't really noticed that he didn't have anything, or, OK, he'd noticed, but he hadn't minded too much; it wasn't like he used his room for anything other than sleeping anyway. And yet here she was, this girl (this girl who felt like the only person in the world), and he wished more than anything to stop her from looking at him like he was a freak, even though he was.
On her way out, she brushed against a pile of papers and it crashed to the floor, and gypsy symbols were strewn across the carpet along with carefully-categorised photocopies of legislative amendments. Sam hustled her out, waving away her apologies and shoving the papers in a drawer, and next time there was a knock at his door he didn't answer it.
Sam stared at his phone, finger hovering over the send key. Spirits were one thing, dangerous, sure, but simple enough to deal with. Witches, though... And he wasn't here for that, anyway. It wasn't his life now. He should just let them know, let them deal with it. Except that would mean they would be here, and he wasn't, he didn't...
"Penny for your thoughts?" said Jess, and Sam decided maybe she had a sixth sense, because she always picked the worst times (but he couldn't find even a drop of irritation for her). He pressed delete hastily, and smiled up at her.
"Are you going home for the summer?" she asked, and he shifted in his seat.
"Not... really. No," he said, and blushed, how was it that this girl (this girl, who he thought he might have fallen in love with) always managed to make him blush?
"Not really?" she laughed. "Why is it that you can never give me a straight answer to a question, Sam Winchester?"
"I am training to be a lawyer," he pointed out, and she laughed longer, and he wished he could just make her laugh all the time, that that could be his job and his life.
"Hey," she said, leaning over conspiratorially, "you want to share a house with me next year?"
Sam leaned back in his chair and thought maybe he would never be happier than right now.
It was getting dark when he set off, his coat heavy on his shoulders, pockets stuffed with charms and weapons and papers. Jess was sitting outside his building, reading the book that he'd sneaked back into her room two days before. "Hey," she said, and he stopped, smiling because he couldn't help it, because even though he needed to get going it was her, and he could no more not stop for her than he could stop his own heart from beating.
"So gypsy culture is really interesting," she said, waving the book. "Really. You know, I'd really love to meet a gypsy. I bet they pretty much rock."
Sam stared at her, but it wasn't the first time she hadn't made any sense to him, and somehow the bewilderment he felt just made him itch to touch her even more. "OK," he said. "Well, I guess that's cool."
"Where are you going?" she asked, and he shoved his hands in his pockets, feeling the metal edges of the charms pressing into his skin.
"Library," he said quickly, but of course she wanted to walk with him, and he couldn't say no, not just because she might be suspicious, but because he didn't want to say no, and so by the time he actually got going in the right direction, it was full dark and he worried it might be too late.
It turned out there was nothing to worry about, though, on any count. The witches were just where he had expected them to be, and they weren't even gypsies after all, just kids with too much time on their hands who thought it would be cool to try some blood magic. Just kids, except they had killed five people, and Sam couldn't understand why, couldn't wrap his head round what made people, people think it was OK to do something like that, so on the one hand it was great that they had no idea really what they were doing because it made the job go like clockwork, and on the other it made Sam feel sick to his stomach, and that made him careless, and that led to him opening the door to the crypt to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
"Uh," he said.
The gun wavered for a second, and then someone said, "Sam?" and Sam thought I must be dreaming, I didn't send the text, did I? and tried to deny that the wild fluttering in his stomach was hope.
"What the hell are you doing here?" the voice asked, and then whoever it was (Dean) stopped shining his flashlight straight into Sam's eyes, and Sam said I live here, which was lame, but also true.
"And the witches?" Dean asked, and Sam shrugged and looked away.
"Taken care of," he said. Maybe a few years ago, he would have been proud, but now he just felt vaguely like he'd betrayed something.
"Dude," said Dean, and clapped him on the shoulder, and the touch made Sam bristle and lean in all at once. "Guess you never lose the touch, huh?"
Guess you never do, thought Sam, and grimaced.
"What the fuck are you doing here, Dean?" Sam had waited all the way back to campus to ask, but he wasn't waiting any more, anger coiled tight in his guts. Dean was spying on him. Jesus Christ.
Dean shrugged. "I was gonna clean out a coven, but, ya know, someone got there first," he said, and grinned over, and Sam forced down the curl of pride, didn't want it, not any more.
"Oh, right, you just happened to come all the way to Palo Alto for a few hopped-up rich kids playing at Harry Potter," Sam growled, and Dean's smile dropped for a second before hitching up again, but it was the fake one now, the one that was too shiny to be real.
"Gee, little bro, I thought maybe you'da got past Stating the Obvious 101 by now. What the hell are they teaching you in this place, anyway?" Sam just glared, and Dean hunched his shoulders. "I'm a hunter, remember? That was a hunt. Doesn't take a genius to put two and two together."
No, it doesn't, thought Sam, and God he couldn't stand that Dean was lying to him again, just like he always did, but then someone called his name across the quad (Jess), and he shook his head.
"Just... leave me alone, OK? I don't need your help," he said, and walked away. He didn't look back, even though he wanted to almost more than he wanted to breathe.
"So I have to do this project for Anthro," said Jess, and Sam wasn't really listening to what she was saying, just to the way she was saying it, and the cadence of her words was so soothing he thought vaguely that she must have taken classes or something. "I decided to do gypsies," she continued, and Sam made a vaguely affirmative noise. Jess looked up at him from under her eyelashes and her hand brushed against his, and she said, "I'd really like to talk to someone of gypsy descent. You know. Like a living history project?"
"Huh," said Sam, thinking about the way his skin was still warm where it had touched hers. It took him a moment to register that Jess had stopped and was staring at him.
"It's OK, you know," she said, and Sam felt that sweet bewilderment flow through him again. "You don't have to be ashamed."
"Of what?" he asked, and right then, standing there talking to this girl (this girl) he couldn't think of a single thing to be ashamed about.
"Your family," she said, gesturing broadly. "Your background. You should be proud of it."
Sam blinked, and for a wild moment he thought she knows she knows fuck how does she know what the hell am I going to do? Then Jess shook her head and said "Gypsy culture is really old. It must be pretty amazing to have such a cool heritage," and Sam spent a good thirty seconds trying to connect that statement to the previous one in his head, and then another fifteen just gaping, before he burst out laughing.
"It is," Jess said petulantly. "I'd give anything to be that interesting."
That shut Sam up, and he frowned at her. "You are interesting. God, Jess, you're the most interesting person I know."
She shook her head. "I'm so normal," she said. "It's just boring. I wish I was like you."
Sam didn't know what to say. A million thoughts fled through his mind, but he couldn't say any of them, couldn't force them past the bittersweet lump in his throat.
"Sam?" Jess asked, tentative now, like she was worried she'd offend him (as if she could ever offend him). "Are you all right?"
Sam reached out to take her hand, felt how fine-boned it was, how smooth the skin of her palm felt against his. "Jessica," he said, "I'm not a gypsy. And you may be a lot of things, but boring isn't one of them. It's not your family or your background that makes you interesting, it's you."
Jess bit her lip. "But family's important," she said. "It's important."
Yeah, thought Sam. It is.
The Impala wasn't hard to spot, even in the dark, and Sam slid into the passenger seat, the motion so familiar it was like the last year hadn't even happened. Dean turned the music off and they sat for a while.
"So," he said finally. "You got a girl, huh?"
Sam nodded. Got a girl. How could he even describe it? "She thinks I'm a gypsy," he said after a while.
Dean snorted. "What, caravans and clothes pegs, the whole nine yards?"
"No. Maybe. I don't know," Sam shrugged. "We haven't really talked about it."
"It's the hair," Dean said. "You look like you're homeless. I guess a gypsy's a step up. She must be the kind who goes for lost causes."
"At least I'm living in the twenty-first century," said Sam, and Dean laughed.
"Lame comeback, college boy. You're losing your touch after all."
After the car drove away, Sam fingered the charms in his pocket and thought no, I'm not. And this time, the thought made him smile.