The Square Root of Pi
This story was written for the Puppy Love challenge at spn-het-love. It's pre-series, based on a series of drabbles I wrote where Sam meets a girl he knew in high school while the boys are working on a case.
Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.
Pairings: Sam/OFC, Dean/OFCs (Het)
Beta: embroiderama continued to patiently field my spastic questions of "Are you sure?" and "Not too hokey?" and "Is this really working?" through the medium du jour. Yes, I spammed her in IM for one more week about Sam and Dean and girls in glasses. misskatieleigh once again continued to help me fine tune Sally and pointed out shocking bits of grammatical creativity which should have me shot. Likewise, kudos to vunadiwai; her ability to point out plot inconsistencies saved Sam from becoming the Incredible Stretching Boy. Everything in this story that rocks is because of them. The mistakes? Those are all me.
Part Two: Base eight is just like base ten, if you're missing two fingers...
"Sandra fucking Bullock? Sammy, are you high or something?"
Dean was laughing so hard Sam thought he'd fall over. That didn't keep his older brother from snaking out a hand to brush against Sam's forehead, making some goddamn cooing noise like Sam was six. Sam swatted Dean's arm and side-stepped out of the way, opening the fridge and pulling out milk. "Use a glass, Samantha." Dean grinned. "I don't want to get your girl germs." He snorted. "Practical Magic! What kind of idiot goes to see a chick flick with witches? You're killing me."
It was tempting.
Wrestling Dean's sorry ass to the floor was tempting but Sam didn't want another noogie followed up by some stupid crack about his taste in movies – Dean watched crap like Surf Ninjas on late night TV so it wasn't like he was an authority on modern film. Dean probably didn't know who Scorsese or Hitchcock or Bergman was because he was too busy hooting like a maniac during Ghostbusters and wishing he had a radioactive backpack all his own or figuring out the best way to tell chicks his name was 'Winchester, Dean Winchester' without losing his leather jacket.
Sam sure as hell wasn't going to tell 'Winchester, Dean Winchester' that Sally had been talking about seeing the movie for two weeks, jumping around about how she and her mom had read the book together, and that Sam wanted to take her. He'd managed to get as far as the movie title before Dean collapsed into hysterics, leaning against a chair and screaming Sandra Bullock's name like it was a cardinal sin. The only thing worse than Dean calling him a chick was being told that he was whipped by a fifteen-year-old math geek in tree-hugger sandals.
Dean was just as whipped by Dad, even if it wasn't exactly the same thing.
"Look, just forget it. Okay?" Sam deliberately swallowed out of the milk jug, covering the entire opening with his mouth, and glared at Dean. "We'll walk there. It's not far." He left extra spit behind – girl germs and then some – before he snapped the cap back on, ignoring Dean's grin.
"No, man. I'll drive you." The glint in Dean's eyes made Sam's stomach go into freefall. "Hell, I've been looking for a way to get June out of her black leather pants so, the way I see it, you're actually doing me a favor." Dean chuckled. "There's nothing like a flick about witches, Sam, if you ever want to bang a goth girl. That was the only good thing about The Craft. Well, that and the hot chicks." Another useless fact filed away; Dean probably never figured out that all the crap weighing Sam's geek brain down actually came out of Dean's mouth.
"No, really. I said it's okay."
"You think I'm gonna embarrass you or something? I can be a gentleman when the situation requires, Sam. Won't mention Math Girl's shoes and I'll even spring for pie when we're done. The rubes in this town suck at pool." Dean looked so goddamn happy that it was hard to say no. He just stood there, grinning back at Sam – even after Sam just crossed his arms and looked down at his shoes.
"I know I'm going to regret this, but, okay…"
Three days later, Sam realized why.
June was just as scary as Sam expected, giving him and Sally the once-over with a bored yawn – but at least she didn't pull out the geek card when Sally hopped into the backseat of the car. Her hair was so black it overpowered the stuff she put around her eyes and, when Sally whispered something in his ear about never wearing black nail polish ever again, it made them both giggle so much Dean shot them both a bitch pissy look in the rearview mirror.
They split off in pairs to go to the bathroom once they were inside. Dean was all smiles then, telling Sam to stick close and take notes because Dean would have Sam in Sally's pants before bedtime. Three kids from school were washing their hands at the sink and Sam decided that shoving Dean's head in a toilet and flushing it wouldn't have kept his brother from being an ass but it might have helped him save face with the kids from PE. He followed Dean into the theater, where Sally was sitting right behind June. She was leaning forward, chattering at Dean's date about the book and how she was hoping Sandra Bullock would do the role proud.
June looked bored.
Dean looked smug, sidling into his seat next to his soon-to-be-latest conquest, and tipped the popcorn he was holding in June's direction. She popped a couple pieces into her mouth, looking just as bored as she had since they'd picked her up at the gas station, and twisted towards the screen. Dean stretched his arm over his head and rested it gently on the back of her chair, turning to grin at Sam over his shoulder with a wink when June didn't shrug the arm away.
Dean's eyes narrowed into slits as Sam returned the grin.
Sally had lifted the armrest between their chairs and was snuggled up under Sam's arm with her head resting where his chest met his collarbone, fingers brushing against his lips as she fed him popcorn.
"Huh," Dean managed, breath coming out in a huff. "Hey, June," he added in a hiss. "Want to feed me some popcorn?" June didn't say anything to that, just stared back at Dean like he was an idiot and Dean's jaw clenched when Sam snorted.
Sally's giggle was still vibrating through Sam's chest when the previews started.
Dean rallied like he always did, ignoring the look on June's face every time he leaned in close to whisper something about the movie – snarky comments followed up by a snort or a laugh. Sam slunk down in his chair when Dean told June that she could slather him up in whip cream pentacles just like Sandra fucking Bullock if she promised to lick them off in a whisper loud enough to carry, followed up by his goddamn cackle after June slapped Dean's stomach and stalked away – hair swinging around her shoulders as she pushed past feet and knees.
But even Dean shut up when Winchester family values flashed on the screen; blood calling to blood in the song of family.
Dean was still staring down at his feet speculatively while they stumbled out the back exit along with most of the crowd, a crisp breeze blowing Sally's hair back from her face as she slipped her hand back into Sam's and bumped arms. "It wasn't as good as the book," she said, mouth quirking into a smile as she squeezed his hand. "My mom's gonna be upset about that. She hates it when people mess up her favorite books by making a movie out of it. Don't even get her started about The Prince of Tides and Barbara Streisand unless you've got hours to kill."
"It's okay. I liked it." Sam squeezed back, glaring at Dean when he snorted. At least he didn't blush when Dean stared pointedly at their hands. It's not like he hadn't caught Dean behind fast-food places making out with a chick before and all Sam was doing was holding hands with his girlfriend.
"You're one whipped puppy, Sam." Dean shook his head, cocky grin at the ready. "I liked it," he added in a high-pitched voice. "Dude, it was a freaking chick flick about witches that was so goddamn bad it broke my winning streak with goth girls!"
"Sometimes I wish I could do magic," Sally said softly, ignoring Dean as she looked right up at Sam. "I'd make it easier for my mom around the house, so fixing things didn't cost so much, and I'd definitely give Janice better taste in clothes 'cause she's starting to scare me when she comes down to breakfast in the morning wearing all those pastels. And I'm gonna conjure up a spirit to do my chores so I can spend more time with you." She wrinkled her nose when Dean started laughing. "Right after I find the world's biggest dork and make Dean fall in love with her."
"Like there's some girl genius out there just pining away for me," Dean retorted, eyes narrowing before he flashed a smile like the one he used with little kids. He jammed his hands into his pockets, legs picking up speed as he strode towards the car. "Don't you two squirts keep me waiting long," Dean added, yelling over his shoulder. "I want pie!"
Sam stopped, pulling Sally back towards him with a small tug when she kept going. "Your brother's kinda lonely," Sally observed with a sigh. Her mouth twisted and she sank her forehead against Sam's chest, the breeze going full bore around them as it whipped her hair up into his eyes.
"Yeah," Sam agreed softly and her entire body went limp as she leaned against him, slipping her arms around his waist.
"Sam…" Sally sucked in a breath and then just stopped talking – hitching herself up on her toes, arms going around his neck. He was already meeting her halfway; feeling another intake of breath against his lips.
It wasn't like that kiss at the apartment complex or all the ones that came after; it was every single one of them strung together. Sally Friedman held onto him as tight as she could, never letting him go no matter how many people walked by and whistled, and Sam could feel her cheeks burn underneath his fingers. He kept right on kissing her when the Impala roared to a stop beside them; Dean didn't whoop or make that goddamn fist pump when they finally pulled away from each other.
Dean just smiled at him when Sam opened the back door for Sally – like he was proud or something.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sam was nine when he figured out that his thirteen-year-old brother was a better cook than anyone he knew, sitting at Bobby Jones' kitchen table and listening to his mother go on about how good peas were for you. Dean seemed to really like cooking, too. Sometimes, when Dean thought Sam was too caught up in his homework to hear him, he'd actually hum while he puttered around in the kitchen. On his last birthday, Sam told Dean it was the best chocolate cake ever and Dean mumbled something about how he just followed the directions on the box.
At least that's what Sam thought Dean said, as he pressed Sam's face into the wall until he took it back.
It was Dad's fault, always telling them that a job worth doing was a job worth doing well. Dean was John Winchester's star pupil, memorizing spell formularies for juju bags as easily as he could leap across a balance beam or clean his guns. He acted like everything was a game but Sam knew deep down that there was something that Dean was trying to prove – because that smile from Dad when you did something well was worth everything.
But even Dean couldn't do much with macaroni and cheese.
He blamed ' Poughkeepsie milk' – which apparently sucked giant green donkey dicks – and the generic brand of macaroni and cheese that the grocery stores carried. Dean's tirade was cut off by a hard little cough from Sally Friedman, who was sitting next to Sam at the kitchen table with her advanced algebra book open. She snapped that she was from Poughkeepsie and Dean made a crack about her being corn-fed so her milk would taste more natural, ducking easily from the plastic cup that Sam launched across the room, but then she just called him a prick and everything was fine.
Until Sally came over to study the next day, lugging three plastic bags up the stairs with her. Dean took one look at the bags she was holding and made a face, blocking the door until Sam pushed him aside and took the bags out of her hands. "You think you're gonna cook for us?" Dean asked hotly, watching Sally slam her backpack onto the table before stalking past him into the kitchen.
"Sam hates macaroni and cheese," she retorted, "And I'm not liking it much these days, either, now that I'm eating it three times a week."
"Don't have to stay for dinner as much as you do, Math Girl." Dean was grinning, flashing a glance at Sam. Sam couldn't even look him in the eyes, just stared down at his hands while Sally's breath came out in a huff and she started diving into the bags. "And I think I'd know it if Sam didn't like mac and cheese," Dean continued, eyes glaring hard at the plastic containers full of food that she was piling on the counter. "He grew up on the stuff! Right, Sammy?"
"Right," Sam answered automatically.
"Doesn't mean that he likes it." Sally's eyes glittered right back at Dean's, a small frown on her face. "But he loves my mom's meatballs and her mashed potatoes so I thought we'd eat something different for a change. I brought enough for all of us but you can still eat the macaroni and cheese if you want."
Dean made a noise deep in his throat, arms tight against his stomach, and the freckles were standing out just as vividly across his nose as the ones on Sally's face. He looked exactly like Dad after Sam said something Dad thought was disrespectful or just plain stupid, mouth quirking as a ragged breath escaped through his lips. Hazel eyes widened with something dark inside and Sam did the only thing he could think to do.
He stepped between them.
"Sally's just trying to be nice, Dean." His goddamn voice squeaked, going up at the end of every word. Sally's fingers twisted around his wrist, palm slipping down to brush against his, and her eyes started to get shiny when Sam didn't wrap his hand around hers like he usually did. "And…" His throat hurt, words not even coming out right around the ache. "Dean's just doing the best he can, Sally..."
"Girl and I can have our own conversation, Sam. We don't need you translating English for us or anything." Dean was trying like hell to sound full of shit but there was something hollow inside, scratching its way into Sam's chest. "I heard what she said loud and clear without you jumping in to protect her."
"But I'm not – " Sam frowned.
"I always heard that boys who grew up without good father figures were assholes but now I know it's true." Sally slammed her hand down on the counter, purple polish stark against the white formica, and brought herself up to her full height. Another strangled gasp erupted from Dean when their eyes met. "Sam told me everything about how he drags you all over the country instead of trying to find a real job. And that's kinda hard, not having your dad around like a dad should be." Maybe Dean would see the way her eyes softened when she said that.
"You have no fucking clue about my dad. Who the hell are you to waltz in and act like you're all sorry because of some goddamn sob story Samantha told you?" Dean's hands fisted, one near each hip, but he was whirling to look at Sam. "Get out."
Sally looked like Dean had smacked her, head ducking backwards. It took her less than five seconds to realize Dean was serious, stopping long enough to look back at Sam with a crumpling face before she slammed the door behind her, without even figuring out that Dean was talking to Sam; giving Sam a warning before he blew. Sam swallowed, standing his ground. He hadn't told Sally everything, just enough for her to understand where Dad was when she asked.
Her backpack was still on the floor, right next to the couch where she always threw it.
"What the fuck are you telling people about Dad!" Dean roared, hands still clenched into fists.
"The truth, Dean!"
"That Dad's some kinda shifty father who left us hanging when we were kids just 'cause you didn't grow up in the same fucking white house on the same fucking street your entire life?" Dean's eyes were wild as one hand twisted hard in his hair, stiff tips around the fingers. "Son of a bitch! Even when you…" His head twisted sharply, mouth clamping shut as Dean stared at him with their father's eyes. "Our father's a goddamn hero, Sam. A hero. All those people he saves!"
"I know that, Dean. It's just – "
"But – "
"I said stop." Dean's voice was calm and his eyes were bright; mouth a glittering smile full of teeth. "Don't want to hear your whiny excuses about how it's okay to go around stabbing Dad in the back just so you can get a sympathy fuck from some frizzy-haired chick."
Sam was going to tell him that he wasn't doing that with Sally Friedman but then there was a knock on the door. Sally came in, eyes red and cheeks shiny, and picked up her backpack before leaving. "I'm sorry," she said gently, pausing at the door. "My dad left us when my little sister was born and I… I thought… Kids shouldn't be left…alone." Sally wouldn't even look at him but was trying hard to catch Dean's eye before shutting the door with a soft click. Dean turned his back on him when they both heard the muffled sob on the other side.
Dean didn't talk to him using words with more than one syllable for three days after that.
Sally wouldn't look at him when Mr. Duran stuck them together in a discussion group and Sam was back to eating his lunch all by himself while Sally hid out in the music room. After a week, Sam finally got up the guts to check in on her and found her playing scales and pounding her fingers against the keys like she was possessed – only to stop by slamming her hands against the keys when he sat down next to her on the bench. And things were never going to be okay after he apologized, words tumbling out about how Dad tried and his job took him places where Sam and Dean couldn't go without even mentioning the family business.
Sally Friedman didn't even turn her head, just sniffled until he left and started banging out more scales before the door was even closed, but she showed up in the library that day after school.
Sam stopped breathing when Sally sat down next to him, cracking a smile during his third apology and slipping her fingers between his with a brush against his lips that tasted like Pepsi and a little 'I'm sorry' against his cheek. She was still holding his hand when it was time to get picked up, tromping out next to him through the front doors and laughing because Sam was blushing. The Impala was waiting by the curb, Dean tapping his thumbs against the steering wheel, and Sam prepared himself for another afternoon of being ignored.
But Dean rolled down the window when he saw them together, yelling something about wanting tuna casserole next time Math Girl decided to make them eat her mother's mashed potatoes.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sally Friedman liked to write notes the way most people wrote novels – if novels were long and rambling, covered in doodles and pictures scribbled in the margins. She started her notes in homeroom, counting every time Mrs. Shepp mentioned a story she heard on NPR, and continued them in physical science. She kept track of every weird tic the kid in front of her had and the number of times some girl named Rose tried to flirt with her social studies' teacher. She included lyrics from her favorite songs and a quote of the day but mostly she'd pick something she thought was funny – like Janice's lectures on color-coordinated lingerie – and write about it.
She always slipped the note into his hand after she sat down next to him in Mr. Duran's class, somewhere between pulling out the book they were reading and brushing her fingers against his arm before she pushed her glasses back on her nose. And he kept every single one, tucked into a shoebox he'd found back at their apartment, crammed into the back corner of the hall closet behind some crappy towels a former tenant had left behind. He was pretty sure Dean had found it after a crack about color-coordinated underwear but Dean could laugh it up all he wanted – Sam Winchester wasn't the new kid anymore, the one who sat in the back of the class watching everyone else pass notes.
Even Dean was hanging out with some guy from work named Bob; he'd show up on their doorstep every Saturday afternoon with a six pack of beer and they'd watch those sucky martial arts movies that Dean loved so much.
If there was a routine, it was nothing Dad would ever approve of.
Dean was getting more hours at the gas station – which let him jazz up the macaroni and cheese with veggies and tuna and sometimes even with Spam – and Sam was always studying for the next round of exams. There weren't even drills now, just surprise excursions to IHOP where Dean chatted up waitresses and teased Sam about bringing a copy of the newspaper to their table to read the 'weird-ass section' the way most people read about sports. There was still enough John Winchester in his blood to keep Sam interested in animal mutilations, especially ones in Wisconsin where throats were getting ripped out. And a part of him really enjoyed the lore, tucking away whatever he could remember for the time they might need to use it.
Sally always looked a little sick around the eyes when they talked about things like that, swallowing her hot chocolate slowly while he and Dean started throwing out every theory they could come up with, but she'd just laugh when they both realized she was there and slip her arm through Sam's while Dean tried to get the waitresses' phone numbers. She thought their obsession with 'weird stuff' was cute and about as normal as a girl who did calculus proofs for fun, anyway.
If there were gradients of being a freak, Sally Friedman never figured out where any of them fell on the graph.
Maybe that's why she pulled one of the books Sam was researching onto her lap after she was done with her homework – the routine that included her coming over three nights a week to do homework usually ended with her bothering Dean with her Casio keyboard while she practiced scales once she was done. But Dean was working one of his extra shifts and the Casio stayed in her backpack. Sally made a disgusted noise in the back of her throat as her eyes flickered and focused on a page.
Sally was so pale, even her freckles had disappeared. "Gross!" she whispered, leaning the book forward just a little for Sam to glimpse the wendigo woodcut. "That's kinda yucky, Sam. I'm surprised you don't have nightmares or something since you read all this scary crap." Her blue eyes looked concerned. "I mean, I'm still having bad dreams about Jimmy Angelov and that's nothing like this. You could get lost in this stuff and have to crawl your way out. I'm gonna have to find Sir Pickles when I get home."
Sam tried not to jerk away from the hand reaching towards him – sometimes it was scary how much she really saw without ever figuring out the truth – and he managed a snort, tried to slap on Dean's devil-may-care smile as he took a breath. "Sir Pickles?"
"Yeah." Sally grinned across the couch at him. "Sir Pickles. He's only the best frog a girl can have and he's green and warty like a pickle. He's got a sword and everything – keeps the monsters away while I sleep – and my mom said he was my very own knight in shining armor. I got him when I was nine."
"My dad just handed me a .45," Sam returned automatically.
"Now you're making fun of me." Her eyes narrowed and she poked him in the stomach with her toe but Sally was still smiling. "Jerk."
"Bitch." Sam caught her foot, rubbed the pads of it for emphasis.
It was probably the wrong thing to say.
Sally pulled her foot back so quickly he let go of her ankle and she slammed it into his chest with enough force to rip his shirt as her toes snagged on a tear. "Girls don't like being called a bitch, Sam," she said, suddenly hitching herself forward and launching herself onto his chest. Chipped red nails flickered underneath his arms and he arched his back, shirt tearing so much that Sam decided he might as well not even be wearing one. It was mostly threadbare, anyway – a castoff of Dean's.
He tickled her for as long as she would let him, head coming forward as her body went limp on top of him, and then he tickled her some more until she was laughing so hard neither of them could breathe.
"Stop, Sam." Sally giggled. "I mean it this time."
"Make me," Sam challenged. Every single hair on his body crackled when she picked herself back up, staring down at him. Girls are like fish, Sam. I'm serious. You just have to know how to tickle them so you can catch them. Goddamn Dean's cheerful advice warred with the impulse to thread his fingers into her hair and pull her mouth back down onto his. He swallowed.Somewhere, his shirt had come off.
"You've got muscles," Sally whispered, knees digging onto the outside of each of his thighs. She brushed her hand against his chest before leaning down and kissing him, mouth slightly open as she shifted back on her heels. "All I've got are lopsided little bee stings," Sally added, wrinkling her nose.
"Don't care." Sam's hands were underneath her shirt, touching her waist. His breath caught when she shivered and he closed his eyes. Tickle them enough that they want to get caught, you know? Who knew that Dean actually made sense when you realized everything he said was fucking literal? And why was he worried about all that crap Dean said when Sally Friedman was lowering her head, white teeth working against her lower lip?
"You're gonna laugh." Sally's voice was tiny, her hands covering his. "I don't want you to laugh…at me."
"Won't laugh." Sam was just happy he was still able to say something because theway she smelled, clean like a storm, made his throat hurt. Her knee came down hard on his thigh when he ended up grabbing some of her hair along with the back of the shirt but he ignored the stab – wriggling her t-shirt up past her abdomen. This bruise? Got it jumping out the window back in Duluth when her dad got home. Nothing worth getting, Sammy, is ever really easy. No pain, no gain. Course, when Dad tells us that, he's probably not talking about chicks.
Dean Winchester was a genius – even if he'd never told Sam how to get a t-shirt up over a girl's head without ripping her hair out. Sally's muffled 'ow' made Sam drop his hands, trying to work out how to pull her right arm out of the sleeve.
"Do you promise?" she asked. "'Cause I'll hit you if you laugh at me, Sam."
"Promise," he managed, ignoring the possibilities inside the scrap of yellow lace blinking underneath the hem, and suddenly Sally bent forward just in time for him to yank the shirt over her head. Her mouth was crashing down into his when he dumped the shirt behind the arm of the couch and Sam ignored the freefall in his brain, falling backwards against one of the pillows and never finding the bottom. His heart was pounding so hard that it stuttered when she moaned, a rough metallic scrape followed by a creaking hinge and the thump of wood. Her heart thumped just as loud, sounding like Dean throwing his keys onto the counter.
Sam's hand shot out, fingers digging into the ratty afghan on the back of the couch. He flung it over both of them, dust going up his nose. Sally hunkered down against him, pressing herself as low as she could. There was nothing left to his imagination, lace scratching into his chest, and her breath was hot against his neck. She trembled when the pressure locked inside his pants started pushing up against her hip.
Dying from embarrassment seemed like a good plan.
"Don't get your panties in a bunch," Dean continued conversationally. "It's not like I haven't seen you without your…" Dean exhaled, a whoosh of air and his voice was muffled as he bent towards the carpet. "The fuck? Your Boy Type t-shirt on? You advertising or something?" He chuckled. "I mean, with that hair of yours it's probably good that you're giving chicks the heads-up, not that it's a – " Dean coughed suddenly, footsteps coming closer. "When did you start wearing red finger nail polish, Sam?"
Sally pulled her hand underneath the afghan.
"So I guess I'm gonna hit the can." Dean's voice was calm. "Here's your shirt." There was a rustle of fabric and Sam slipped his hand out, feeling the cotton in his hand. The afghan had slipped just enough past his left eye for Sam to see Dean's thumbs up and cocky grin. Dean jammed his hands in his pockets and turned on his heel, whistling 'Whole Lotta Love.'
That was damn subtle for Dean.
As soon as the door to the bathroom closed, Sally was pulling on her t-shirt and popping out from underneath the afghan. "He's never gonna let me live this down," Sam groaned, cheeks going red when she got stuck again; yellow lace burning onto the back of his eyeballs as she jerked the shirt back down. "Never." He sighed, touching Sally's forearm. "I'm sorry he…" Sam tried to slow down his breathing when she smiled, one small curve of her lips, and nodded.
"You kinda make me dizzy." Her lips touched his forehead lightly. "But you're so chivalrous, Sam Winchester, I'm gonna forgive you for calling me a bitch. I mean, you could've laughed at me for days when you found out I'm wearing a pastel bra that used to belong to my sister." Sally made a face before looking up at him, smiling so brightly that Sam could only smile back. "I'm gonna stick around until you get sick of me," she added, curling up next to him and plopping her head on his shoulder.
That was never going to happen but Sam wasn't about to sound even more like a dork than he usually did whenever he talked to Sally Friedman. Besides, talking would have required working vocal cords. Sally chirped at him in a sing-song voice, head resting on his shoulder like it belonged there. When Sam was finally able to understand English again, she finished it up with a sigh and added, "Besides, practice makes perfect!"
"I fucking hope so," Dean interjected from the hallway. "That damn caterwauling thing you call a keyboard makes my ears bleed." He grinned at Sam, keeping eye contact until he was standing in front of the couch. "You and Juliet want some pizza, Romeo?"
Sally whipped a pillow from the couch right at Dean's head with a muffled 'jerk' but his older brother ducked easily out of the way. Sam hooked his brother's ankle with his foot before Dean could get the 'bitch' out. "Jesus Christ!" Dean yelped, whirling like a keystone cop, and Sally giggled.
The noogie was totally worth it.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Their final English project that semester, worth a third of their grade, was due the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Sally dragged Sam into the library, a copy of West Side Story and Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet in her backpack, and into the AV-room behind all of the stacks. They were going to use the principles in Guenther's book to critique modern versions of the story but their outlines – covered in Sally's doodles and Sam's painstaking notes – were drifting towards the floor the second their shoulders touched. Anyone coming into the room would have seen a tangle of arms and legs, of frizzy blonde hair tucked underneath a stretchy hat and Sam's hands everywhere she'd let him touch.
"We're both gonna fail if we don't even try to watch the movies," Sally whispered against his mouth.
"Rather kiss you," Sam retorted.
"Me, too." She giggled into his shoulder and stretched her arms over her head. "But we're not gonna get into a good college if we both flunk out of Freshman English class and then my mom'll be pissed and get me a hot tutor that I'll keep trying to ditch and your brother will get cranky 'cause he'll be stuck with his dead-end loser kid brother in Poughkeepsie."
He chuckled, breaking contact long enough to push the button on the TV and press 'play' on the VCR remote. He didn't watch the small screen, with its montage of buildings and fighting gangs; every hair on the back of his neck stood up straight because Sally Friedman's hand was scratching slowly across his thigh, back and forth, in lazy time to Jets and Sharks dancing across the streets of New York.
Sam watched the reflection off of her glasses until her eyes rolled up and she returned his stare. "I'm not the movie, Sam." Sally's breath came out in a huff. She snatched the remote from his hand and pressed 'stop' before tilting her head up to look at him. "What are you doing next week for Thanksgiving?"
"Probably eating mac and cheese while Dean makes cracks about the floats," Sam returned slowly. "I think he secretly enjoys watching the girls with the batons." He expected Sally to laugh again but she was biting her lip. He swallowed. "Something wrong?"
"Your dad's not coming back for it?"
"I…don't think he's going to be able to get out of his…assignment."
"I'm sorry, Sam." Sally moved to her knees, putting her arms around his neck. "That's hard. I still kinda miss my dad every Christmas and he left when I was six." She gave a small sigh, forehead resting against his. "It must be even harder without your dad and…your mom." Sam's hands clenched on her arms, recoiling when he heard the whisper because there was guilt and there was the look on Dean's face every birthday and there was knowing he'd always have to try and miss someone he'd never known. The scratch in his throat had nothing to do with the cold he was probably getting. Sally bit her lip.
"Not your fault." But Sam wasn't going to say more and Sally Friedman didn't press, just looked up at the clock in the AV room.
"Dean's probably waiting outside for us," she said gently, cutting through the silence as she fell back onto her heels. "And I should probably ask you both at the same time 'cause it's just as much his decision as it is yours." Sally hopped off the couch, leaning down to get West Side Story out of the VCR and slipping it into her backpack. Her blue eyes looked out the window. "See, just like I said. Snow's coming. Aren't you glad I told you to start bringing a scarf to school? We could make snowmen on Saturday!"
Sam rolled his eyes, bringing an arm up across his chest as she made to tickle him. "You've got to be kidding." She giggled, wrapping her scarf around her neck before pulling on her down-filled jacket – rainbow stripes warring with the sun and stars on her hat. "Okay, we can make a snowman," he added when her lower lip jutted out. "But I'm drawing the line at snow angels."
"No way!" Sally snorted, grabbing his hand and dragging him out the library. "Snow angels are the best part!" She looked at him over her shoulder. "Can you imagine the blackmail material if we can convince Dean that chicks think boys who make snow angels are cool and he'll get laid? You can take pictures and then whip them out when he starts flirting with waitresses."
Sam didn't have the heart to tell Sally Friedman that there was no way in hell Dean was going to flop around on the ground making snow angels and that Sam would get his ass kicked the second one of those pictures showed up in the car. Sally gave a happy wave to one of the janitors as they passed, blowing past the music room to see if her mom was inside before they both tromped outside to where Dean was waiting in the car.
"You want a ride, Math Girl?" Dean called the moment they burst through the front doors. The wind was cold, blowing snow up into his face, and Sally's eyes glittered as she nodded. She scooted into the back seat, pushing her book bag in front of her as Sam ducked and followed her. "What's with this place?" His older brother asked the moment Sally started unwrapping her scarf. "The snow's as thick as snot. I wasn't kidding when I said this place blows."
"You gonna talk like that around my Mom on Thanksgiving," she retorted, slipping her fingers between Sam's behind his book bag. Dean did a double-take in the rearview mirror and Sam's smile spilled all over his face. "We'll definitely have enough food 'cause people are bringing dishes. It's kinda like a potluck." She poked Dean in the shoulder. "Janice is making three different kinds of pie and my little sister's addicted to the Macy's parade, so we'll probably have to watch it a couple of times."
Sally babbled the rest of the way to her house about everything they were going to do, what movies they could watch and how Dean could bring macaroni and cheese – all three of them grinning like idiots because she wasn't taking 'no' for an answer and Dean kept hemming and hawing and never saying 'yes.' Dean's eyebrows got lost in his hair when Sally squeezed him once on the arm. Sam might have been jealous about that but then she was plastering her mouth against Sam's with a tiny 'See you tomorrow' and they didn't even care that Dean was tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel.
As soon as she slammed the door shut, Dean leaned down and flipped on the radio. 'EnterSandman' began bouncing against the windows. "Son of a bitch," he said softly. "They're actually playing music tonight." He glanced over his shoulder. "She inside yet?"
"You want to go to that Thanksgiving thing?"
"If I'm gonna have to watch that goddamn parade twice, Janice's pie better be fucking gourmet." Sam leaned his arm against the window, resting his head on it as he watched the cars drive slowly by. "Tell you this much, Sammy. Math Girl sucks a lot less than just about everything else in this place even if she uses our pizza delivery menus for math practice."
Sam's chest tightened. "She doesn't suck at all." And he didn't care if Dean called him hinky or emo or whipped or anything else his brother could think up when Dean thought he was on a roll.
"Not even a little bit?" Dean snorted. "Kinda sucks to be you."
"Bite me, Dean."
Dean was still laughing at his own joke when the Impala rolled into the parking lot of their apartment complex. The heater was set as low as possible, his fingertips cold as Sam dropped off his backpack in the smaller bedroom he was using and headed towards the shower. Fastest way to warm up after being out in the cold, Sam. Well, apart from banging a chick. He probably should have let Dean take a shower first, given that the only active thing Sam had done all day was push Sally Friedman backwards on the couch in the AV room.
Thinking about that in the shower was probably a bad thing – the way she smelled musky and sweet at the same time. Sam finished his shower quickly, pulling on sweats over his tube socks and toweling his hair as he walked back to his room to get one of Dean's old sweaters out of the battered dresser near his bed.
Dean was bent over a chair, fingers clutching his hair as he spoke soft and sharp into the mouthpiece, but Sam didn't need to be in the kitchen to hear what Dean was saying.
"Yes, sir. We'll be there by Tuesday." Dean started when their eyes met and Sam saw his throat working, wondering if Dean could feel the same slow burn. "Storm's supposed to calm down by morning, Dad," Dean continued; his face was pale, freckles standing out across his nose – just like Sally's had that first day she tried to steal his book out of the library. "Sam? Yeah, he's doing good." And Dean was going on quietly about Sam's grades, answering Dad's questions about what Sam was currently studying.
Like any of that really mattered.
The next school would have a different curriculum anyway – new textbooks to read or maybe some of the old ones he'd already memorized in libraries across the country – and Sam would be the new kid again, stuck in the back of the room without even one Sally Friedman to save him. It hurt to even think about swallowing, hands as cold as they'd been before his shower, and Sam just turned on his heel. He couldn't see the walls as he padded across the floor, flinging his bedroom door open before his shoulders hitched.
He sat down on the edge of his bed, staring at the snow swirling outside the window, and it didn't sound like it was winding down at all. The howl rattling through the windows only made his stomach hurt harder, matching the ragged noise that echoed through the room as Sam lay down and tried to breathe.
He ignored the knock on his door, slow footsteps marching back down the hall.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
It took Sam all of fifteen minutes to throw everything he owned into his duffel.
He was still staring at it when Dean knocked on his door, poking his disheveled head into the room. Sam had even shoved his photocopied version of Defence of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Against Modern Criticism into the bottom, taking care to keep it from crumpling as much as he could by packing it between two pairs of folded over jeans. Sam didn't even think about packing the box of notes, reminders of what he should never have wanted in the first place. Keeping the book was going to be hard enough, with its doodles in the margins and the calculations Sally Friedman used to figure out the base where two plus two equaled five.
Dean's mouth was a thin line. "You hungry?" Sam's eyes widened – Dean sounded just like he did when Sam was ten and he'd lost his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the park.
"I'm not a kid, Dean!" Sam snapped. "If I'm hungry, I'll eat. I can even tie my own shoes."
"Suit yourself, Sammy." Dean leaned against the doorjamb and just watched him.
Sam snatched the sweatshirt he'd flung over a chair the night before and started throwing it on over his head. Dean was still watching him when Sam's head popped out. If Dean even tried to ask if he needed help tying his shoes or brushing his hair, he was going to boot Dean in the head just like in that old radio thing Pastor Jim loved so much. It's not like he was broken or anything.
"Dad wants us there by Tuesday. Monday, if we can make it." Dean's jaw clenched, hands flexing at each of his hips. "I – " His older brother shook his head sharply. "I didn't ask why."
"So that's it?" Sam managed, willing his arms not to shake. "We just get up and leave like always? You're old enough now! We could – " That's when Dean's eyes went hard, a smoldering gaze that was probably genetic, and Sam knew he'd lost the argument already without going into the reasons why they should stay. Even Dean, in his own warped Dean way, was happy in Poughkeepsie – but when Dad said jump, Dean always asked 'how high' while he was in mid-air.
"You want to leave right away?" Dean asked. His voice was thick. "Got a little time before we need to hit the road." Sam's eyes burned, too, and that's when Dean finally started watching the wall. "But we can just leave if you want," Dean added.
"Do we…" Sam's chest ached and he pulled his arms up around his stomach. Hazel eyes flickered at him for a second while Sam trembled. He wasn't going to fucking start crying like a baby or anything. Winchesters didn't do that. Winchesters just sucked it up and dealt with it, like Dad always did. Dean was always saying they needed to pretend they were rolling stones or dust in the wind or something dumb that made it okay for Dean to shake the dust off his boots and leave. Sam had done it, too, so why the hell was goddamn Dean looking at him like he was made of glass? "Do we have time to stop by school?" he asked. Dean's eyes widened. "I've got notes I need to give Sally," Sam continued. "So…she doesn't have to do our English project all by herself."
His voice didn't crack once, not even at the very end when Dean had started nodding.
"Yeah, Sammy." It was the soft voice again and then Dean was striding into the room. Sam brought up his shoulders sharply but Dean reached past him and grabbed the duffel – ignoring the notebook Sam had set next to it on the bed. "Just need to pack this and we're ready to go," Dean explained, turning on his heel and walking out of the room.
That's when Sam realized Dean wasn't just ready to go, he was fully dressed down to the leather jacket and the boots he always wore when it was snowing outside and Sam was in bare feet and the sweats he usually wore to bed. So he jammed his feet into the socks he left on the desk after the apartment door slammed shut, half-expecting Dean to come back in and get him because he was taking too long to get dressed, but Dean never showed up – no matter how long Sam sat on the bed with his hands on his thighs and stared at his English notebook.
Dean wasn't even waiting outside the door for him. The Impala's muffled growl was fighting with the cold, snow still coming down as fast as it had been the night before; enough for Sam's shoes to crunch as he walked slowly down the stairs, shielding the notebook underneath his jacket. Sam wanted to curl up right there on the front seat, just him and the storm and the frozen way his eyes felt as the car moved, but he sat up with his back straight and even turned on the radio.
Sally was waiting for Dean to drop him off, though – right in front of the metallic letters where she'd been meeting him for two months, doing some skipping shuffling thing with her feet the moment Sam's door opened. "First bell already rang so you made me late for home room," she crowed, making a face before picking up right where they'd left off the night before. "But my mom's even making ham for Thanksgiving"
She stopped right in her tracks – eyes blinking furiously when she heard Dean's door slam shut, too; both of them walking slowly towards her as her mouth made an 'oh' without any sound coming out of it at all. Just the trail of her breath swirling through the snow.
Her hands clenched, ignoring Sam's as he brushed his fingers against her right glove, and Dean coughed. "We're heading out, Math Girl," he said softly, fists jammed in the pockets of his leather jacket. Sam should have been pissed, Dean saying goodbye before Sam could even explain that they were leaving, but Sally's face crumpled in on itself right in time with his heart burning up inside his rib cage. "Our dad called and he needs us. So…so you stay cool, Sally," Dean added. He looked like he was going to pat her on the head or something but just shrugged his shoulders and walked back to the driver's side of the car.
Her eyes were full when she looked up at him, snowflakes falling onto her glasses, and she wiped underneath the lenses with a hard swipe of her red and white striped fingers. "I…" Sam shook his head sharply, his voice cracking as he continued. "I brought you the notes for Mr. Duran's class." He pulled the notebook out from underneath the jacket. Her right hand shook as Sally reached for it, fingers wrapping around it as tightly as they had wrapped around Guenther's book in the library. "So you can finish the project," he added.
"Oh." Her voice was a murmur against the scratched way it came out of her mouth, left hand clutching the edge of his sleeve as he pulled his hand back. Sally blinked against the oncoming tears, turning her face away only when Sam tried to brush them off her cheeks, and held the notebook to her chest like it was the most precious thing she owned. Suddenly, her eyes brightened. "But we can still call each other and write letters, so it won't even be like you've left." A hiccup bubbled out of her. "Dean can even get on the phone with you and I'll insult him so he can yell at both of us."
"Sally," he whispered, one hand bracing the back of her head as her forehead fell forward onto his chest. "I – " Sam's shoulders heaved and he choked on his breath. Sally's free arm wrapped around his waist, holding him just as tight as she ever did. "I can't…"
"So I'm just supposed to take the notebook and walk away like you never existed?" Sally asked, her voice muffled against his jacket. Sam didn't say anything. "You're not even gonna try and stay in touch with me, are you? 'Cause that's really shitty, not even staying in touch with me after... After everything. I told you secrets, Sam. Stuff I never told anyone and you never laughed once." She lifted her head up and wiped her nose with the back of her glove, smearing more tears across her face. "How can you just leave?"
"I…" Sam began. "I can't tell you." The words tumbled out even though Sam tried to hold them back, the way they made her eyes fill with tears all over again – scratching his throat as they ripped to the surface. "I just have to go."
She brought her arm up around his neck, bracing herself with it as she reached up on her toes. "And palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss," Sally said softly against his lips. The notebook dropped onto his shoes as she brushed his face with her other hand, kissing him slow and sweet with her glove rough against his cheek – like she was trying to memorize him just by the touch of his lips and the way his face felt underneath her fingers.
"I'm not gonna forget you," Sam promised when she pulled away, both arms wrapped around her shoulders and wishing like hell that he'd stop shaking. Sally probably didn't notice, shaking just as much with every rough hitch coming out of her chest. "Ever." And then he let her go, bending down to pick the notebook back up and pressing it into her hand once she finally looked at him. "Goodbye, Sally," he said, kissing her cheek.
Sam didn't wait for her to say something – anything – because there wasn't any use sticking around once you said 'goodbye' to someone. Not when that someone knew you weren't ever going to see her again, that you'd never do normal things like talk to her on the phone or even send her a birthday card. He listened to Sally's footsteps and walked back to the Impala, picking up speed the farther away those footsteps got from him – but Sam didn't open the door and slide inside until the footsteps stopped and the front door of the school closed behind her with a metallic clang.
Dean's face was white when their eyes met, swallowing when Sam slammed the door shut. Dean didn't say anything when the sob Sam had been keeping locked up tight inside finally broke out, not one half-assed comment about how Poughkeepsie had turned his little brother into a walking chick flick or that he left his tissues back at the hotel so use your goddamn sleeve to wipe the snot off and stop crying, Samantha. The Impala burst out of the parking lot with a howl in her engine, wheels spinning out with a squeal and skidding across snow-covered asphalt until Dean hit the highway.
When Sam blinked, Poughkeepsie was a blur in the rearview mirror – and they were passing the 'Thank you for Visiting the Empire State' sign by the time Sam could swallow again.
The section title is a line from the song "New Math" by Tom Lehrer and is more conclusive proof that I really am a geek.
Yes, I watched Practical Magic for this. For those who are curious as to timeline, it debuted in wide-release in the States on 10/16/98.
Those of you who caught the "Boy Type" reference have watched entirely too much anime in your lifetime. Those of you who didn't can laugh at the otaku in the rest of us. "Boy Type" specifically refers to the "boy" version of a character called Ranma in the manga/anime series Ranma ½. Ranma's been cursed to turn into a girl under a specific set of circumstances.
I cleverly avoided my 'verse curse by setting this story in an existing one. While there are several hints regarding which 'verse this is, I'll leave it unspoken for now as this occurs eight years before the relevant plot. embroiderama figured it out and she's nicer than I am; she might even tell you which one it is.