Word Count: 7754
Characters: Sam/Jess, Dean/Jess
Spoilers: S1: "Pilot"
Summary: When she calls him for answers, he never assumes that her words are filled with as many lies as his.
Author's Notes: Thanks to mellaithwen who willingly read this over and offered needed thoughts and to LJ user, drvsilla, for having a listening ear that I'm continually grateful for. A huge thank you also to equinoxblue who dealt out beta treatment all those months ago when this was first written and hasn't stopped poking me about this since then. Any remaining mistakes are mine alone.
Disclaimer: The following characters and situations are used without permission of the creators, owners, and further affiliates of the television show, Supernatural, to whom they rightly belong. I claim only what is mine, and I make no money off what is theirs.
It's raining outside and the roof is leaking when she calls him. His phone rings three times from across the room before he reaches it. He has to hobble across the dingy carpeting, wincing all the way; he's been laid up for almost two days with a sprained ankle and bruised ribs from the last hunt.
"Hello?" he breathes into the phone, pain from his miserable body cutting his air short. Static crackles across the line with the single word.
"Dean?" The voice is feminine and confused. "Is this Dean Winchester?"
"Yeah," he answers, wondering who this is and how she got his phone number. He can't remember giving his number out to any of the girls he's fucked recently. Perhaps, he decides, she got his number from a friend with something amiss in their attic. She has to be a person with a problem that she thinks he can fix.
"You don't know me," she begins, her voice fading in and out as she talks, "but I know your brother." She sighs, and he stays quiet. He has not seen Sam in about three years now. Not since he left for college. "I'm Sam's girlfriend," she blurts out suddenly in a clumsy sort of fashion seen in impatient children. "Jessica."
A pause follows, as if she's waiting for him to laugh warmly and recognize her name. Finally, lowering himself back down onto his bed uneasily, he grunts, "Yeah?" He doesn't know what else to say. Doesn't know what she wants from him.
"I need to ask you some questions."
"Go ahead, sweetheart," he answers, the pet name slipping off his tongue naturally with nothing behind it. He does not plan on giving her the truth she is looking for, although he doubts that his lies of family and history will match the brilliant ones that Sam has certainly constructed.
"Can I see you?" she asks. "In person?"
"And why's that?"
"It's just—" She stops and he hears her mental shrug in the crackling air between them. "It will help to answer some things better that way is all."
He thinks before answering, wonders if this is really what he should be getting himself into. He has always tried to respect Sam's quest for normalcy on the other side of the country, but she's the one asking, the one calling and requesting. Not Dean.
"Where are you?" he asks as if he doesn't already know.
"California. Palo Alto."
The rain taps on the glass of his windows with intrusive little fingers as he looks down at his ankle, swollen and discolored like a beaten piece of flesh the animals eat for dinner. He tells her, "I can be there in three days, maybe. Might be longer."
She gives him directions to the campus and where to meet her, and she hangs up before he has a chance to say good-bye.
He sighs and falls back onto the bed, hands flying loosely above his head. The phone tumbles from his uncurled fingers and bounces to the floor. He makes no move to retrieve it.
- - - - -
The rain follows him almost all the way to California. By the time he crosses the state border, it has slowed to a fine mist and once inside the city limits, the sky finally dries. He parks his car down the street, blocks away from where she has arranged to meet. With his keys still clutched tightly in his fist, he shoves his hands deep into his coat pockets, shoulders hunched inward. He walks quickly, not wanting to be late, not wanting to be seen.
The clutch of bells on the coffeehouse door jingles when he enters, and a few of the customers look up at him. His first thought is how young they all look in their preppy fashion clothes and carefully placed hair. Once he has seen them, truly looked at them instead of ducking his head away as he did on the streets, he realizes how ridiculously out of place he is with his black leather and rough boots, while they wear bright colors and delicate little sandals. He is a dirty black in a world of clean colors.
He stands in the doorway, looking for a face he does not know. Desperately, he tries to think of all the girls Sam ever liked in high school, but Dean cannot picture them. Even if he could, he knows that none of the small town hick girls could match the suave college women around him.
He's wondering what she will be like when he feels a hand touch his shoulder. "Dean?" she says, and he turns around to face her.
"You found me," he replies, a bit surprised and relieved all at once.
She smiles openly; her face is as bright as Sam's became in happiness. "You look like your brother."
Dean thinks she's lying because no one, in all his years, has ever said that Sam and he look similar. Sam got Dad's dark features and Dean got Mom's light. But Dean allows himself to believe her lie anyway. It's easier to accept those words than hearing how he juts out of this world so awkwardly it's painful and for that reason, she knew who he was.
She leads him to a table in a corner, away from the windows and surrounded by shadows, where an overstuffed backpack spills papers and books from its zippered mouth. Her hair is long, curling down her back, and her toenails are a color of blue with purple—periwinkle, perhaps—that he hasn't seen on a woman he's been with before.
"Thank you for coming," she says once they're seated, and she has ordered their drinks. Black coffee for him and vanilla latte for her.
He shrugs and tries to be nonchalant but fails. "No problem," he mumbles, shoving his hands in his coat pockets and squeezing them into sweaty, nervous fists.
"So what's the deal between you and Sam? Sam and your dad?" she says before lifting her mug with two hands and sipping the white froth. Her eyes never leave his as she speaks and drinks. Her boldness surprises him.
"Who said there is a 'deal'?" he asks, suddenly cautious, not trusting her. He wonders if she was merely playing passive when she called to coax him into driving here. So that he would come and she could nail this on him so brutally sharp.
"He doesn't like to talk about your family. He doesn't go home for holidays. He has a thousand excuses for why he never calls."
Dean shrugs, leans back in the chair and pulls his coat around him protectively. "We weren't the Brady Bunch," he tells her. "Sam wanted something we couldn't give him."
"What's that? A family?"
"No," he snaps, harsher than he had intended, but she doesn't flinch. She merely continues to stare, studying his emotions and words. "We gave him a family," he says, rambling and trying to give her something to make her stop looking at him like he's her new test case. "We just weren't good enough or something. We weren't what he wanted." Even before the words fall from his lips into the air, he knows that they are lies. Of course their family of he and Sam and maybe, occasionally, Dad wasn't good enough. There is no "or something" about it. It was hardly a family on most days. But she doesn't need to know that.
She reaches across the table and rests a hand over top his clenched fist. It is merely a touch, and he knows that through the gesture, she is not looking for sympathy or sex like the hundreds of other women who have touched him in the same way. "I'm sorry," she says. "I didn't mean to upset you. I'm sorry," she repeats. Her hand is soft and warm, and her bones fragile underneath the smooth skin.
He pulls his hand away from her and rests it in his lap. "Sam just doesn't always know what he's talking about. He lets his feelings get in the way."
She nods, tugs her hair away from her face to reveal a silver necklace with a small diamond pendant. "I won't argue with you about that."
They fall into silence, and Dean hasn't touched his coffee since they brought it to him. She's halfway through her latte and looking around the café like he's not even there anymore.
Finally, unable to contain his only question any longer, he blurts out, "Is he happy?"
She doesn't move for a beat, keeping her eyes focused on the door, and then, coming to life, she turns to smile at him. "Yes," she answers, but her smile is faraway and maybe even a little sad. "At least," she says quietly, almost so much that he can barely hear, "at least he thinks he is."
"Then I guess he's finally gotten everything he wanted after all."
The door swings open and a young couple enters, hand in hand. Both Jessica and Dean watch the pair as they walk across the room to a window table where they twirl their fingers together and laugh softly at private jokes.
"I guess he has," she repeats.
- - - - -
The second time they meet, he calls her. Says that he's in the area, although he doubts that most people would call a motel in the middle of Oregon close to a Californian campus.
"Where do you want to meet?" she asks on the phone.
"Someplace he goes," Dean tells her. He's driving to Palo Alto as he speaks, despite that she hasn't agreed to meet him again. He knows, though, that she won't say no. "Someplace that he identifies with," Dean clarifies.
"Okay," she says, and he hears a girl laughing in the background, perhaps a bit drunk, and he's not sure if it's the television or a real person. "I know just the place."
- - - - -
She takes him to the campus library, leads him to the top floor of many. She's wearing blue jeans this time, tight against her curves, and a pink blouse that shows the top of her bra when she bends over. He can't help but look even when he knows he shouldn't. She both fascinates and excites him.
The library's top floor is silent except for the occasional groan from the walls. It smells of old paper, and as she leads him down the rows of books, she runs her fingers down the aged spines. At the end of the aisle, they enter a small area with leather covered study chairs and large scenic windows. The sun, coming through the glass, is bright enough to make him squint.
"He comes here all the time," she tells him in an even voice.
"Aren't we supposed to be quiet?" he whispers, remembering the signs on the stairwell that told them they were entering a quiet area and there should be no talking, please.
"There's nobody else up here," she says as she sits down in one of the chairs.
"Not even Sam?"
He nods. A part of him is slightly disappointed that he will not see his brother, but he decides this is for the best. Trying to explain why he is with Jessica is not something that Dean wants to do anytime soon.
"You asked me about Sam before," Dean says, bringing his hands together as he sits down across from her. He has left his leather coat in the car; California is too warm for it today. "I just wanted to tell you that Sam didn't have a bad childhood. I don't want you to think that he did. It wasn't like he was abused—"
"Does he know that he's loved?"
He looks up at her, past her exposed shoulder with the white bra strap to meet her eyes. "Loved?" he echoes back in a pinched sort of voice, a stupid sort of male surprised voice.
"Yes. Does he know? He thinks your dad hated him. That all you cared about was your job."
"Of course we loved him. What? Did he need us to hug him and cry and carry on like a goddamn soap opera when he left? It was his choice to leave, you know."
"Maybe he just needed to hear it," she offers, readjusting her shirt to cover that bra strap.
"So you're saying that we fucked him up by not using the magic three words enough?" His voice is sarcastic and scratchy. He doesn't like what she's accusing him of, what she assumes he did and didn't do for his brother.
"No." She shakes her head, eyes downcast. "No. I think that Sam ran because maybe he thought that's what you and your dad wanted him to do. Just leave."
Dean thinks back to the day that Sam told Dad about college, about California and his plans to leave. How Dad had yelled and thrown things then went outside and pretended not to wipe tears from his eyes that his youngest son was abandoning him. His anger. Sam's anger. Their shared pain from different sides of it all. "No," Dean argues now. "No, Dad cared. Sam knew that."
"Then I guess I was wrong." She pauses just long enough for Dean to look away and out the window to the green lawns dotted with students. "Sam comes here all the time. Did I already tell you that?"
He nods, silent.
"Oh. Well. He reads a lot when he's here, studying, of course, but sometimes, when I come to meet him after class, he's just staring out the window like he's looking for something."
"Is this where you guys met?" Dean asks, just because he's curious.
"No. I don't come here unless he's here, too. This is his place, not mine." When Dean doesn't respond, she leans forward and says, "Did he like the libraries when he was a kid?"
He pauses before he speaks, chews on the corner of his lip and thinks. At last when he answers her, he replies, "If I do this for you, I want something from you as well."
"Do what for me?"
"Give you answers about Sam. Let you know about the things that he won't tell you. I want something in return."
She smirks, trying to hide her amusement at the way he talks to her. "What's that?"
"I want to know who my brother is. I want to know about the things that he won't tell me," he says to her. He wants to know why Sam left and why he continues to stay away. He wants to know Sam again.
"You want to see what college is like?"
"I want to see what his life is like," he clarifies.
They fall back into silence again, and where Dean was uncomfortable in the coffeehouse before, he now accepts the hushed little pauses. She's smarter than he has given her credit for, and he must choose his words carefully around him. In some ways, he can see himself in her and in others, he can see Sam in her; he wonders if Sam chose her because she was so much like home.
"Do you love him?" he asks.
Now, it's her turn to look startled and taken off guard. "What?"
"Do you love him?" he repeats, not changing his tone.
He shouldn't be surprised with her answer. She's as good at avoiding the truth as he is. "Well, I don't hate him," she says and grins.
- - - - -
The third and fourth times they meet, it's him who does the asking. The fifth time, it's her. Eventually, he loses count. She shows him her world, shows him Sam's world. He fits in as well as a black puzzle piece does with a puzzle of the sun. But, he goes along with it anyway. Because she asks him to. Because she tells him to. Because he wants to know that this is what Sam is doing with his life now.
When they meet again, she slaps a red baseball cap on his head and says, hands on hips, "You ever been to a college football game before?"
"A football game?" he echoes, reaching up to take off the baseball cap, but she slaps his hands away before he can get to it.
"You can't go into the stadium with absolutely no spirit. They'll kill you."
"Let me guess," he groans, "this is something Sam enjoys, so I have to see it too."
She giggles like a little girl with a secret. "Nope. Sam hates these things, but as you chose a home football game to visit, you're going with me."
"And if I don't go?"
"What's the worst that could happen?" she asks, eyes questioning above two big S's painted on her cheeks. The last time, Dean remembers, he heard that question Dad fell through a trap door and broke his collarbone and a few ribs. But before Dean can answer her, she starts walking away from him. "Come on or we're going to be late."
He pulls the cap down over his eyes and follows her, huffing curses under his breath.
- - - - -
Once the game has ended with Stanford winning, much to Jessica's happiness, they exit the stadium with the flood of people.
"Are you up for a bonfire tonight?" she asks as they work their way through the crowds. "My friends always have a bonfire at the beach after a home game."
Dean shrugs. She's dragged him through a football game. He figures it can't get any worse. "Sure. Why not, I guess?"
"Why not would be that it's about twenty minutes from here. So." She exhales, scratches the back of her head. "We can either take a bus or, if you don't mind, you can drive."
He doesn't say yes, but he doesn't say no either, and that's enough of an answer for her. They walk side by side to where he has parked the Impala in the visitor's lot for the day.
Jessica slides in after he unlocks the door, and she looks around the interior. "This really yours?" she asks.
"Yep," Dean replies and starts the engine.
"Damn." She whistles in appreciation like a man seeing a woman in a skirt walk past. "I guess Sam is a bigger idiot than I thought. I mean, to leave this behind." She laughs just to let Dean know she's kidding.
Dean looks over at her in the passenger seat so close. He wants to reach out and touch her, brush her hair from her face, but he doesn't. He simply gazes at her and remembers how, so long ago, Sam sat in that same space next to him.
- - - - -
At the beach, after he's parked the car alongside the road, she takes off her sandals, holds them in her hand, and walks barefoot across the sand. He locks the car and follows her, hands in his pants' pockets and eyes darting from her to the fire in the distance.
She turns, glances over her shoulder at him. "You coming or not?" she asks, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," he sighs, trudging through the sand. His boots are not made for this. He is not made for this. A part of him wishes that he had said no while he still had the chance.
She waits for him to reach her, and then she takes his hand in hers. "You guys ever do this sort of stuff when you were kids?"
Dean shakes his head. "Dad wasn't big on fires. Always afraid me and Sam would burn down the city or something," he tells her, but really, he's thinking about all the bodies they burned together as a family and how their house blazed in the night while he fled with Sam in his arms.
"Oh," she says, disappointed.
"Does he talk about me?" he asks her; it's another question that has been on his mind lately.
She pauses, frowns in thought. "It's hard to explain," she muses. "It's like he talks about you only in ways that you talk about someone you met once, a long time. Like," she struggles, "he always has to clarify. It's not just 'Dean.' It's 'Dean, my brother' like you're only that to him."
"What else should I be?"
She shrugs, tugs her windblown hair away from her face. "I don't know? A friend?"
They reach the bonfire at last where a circle of kids sit, laughing and talking. Their shadows stretch, black and skinny, over the sand, and his skin prickles instinctively with the smell of smoke.
"Jessie!" a man exclaims from where he's seated, waving a bottle of beer at her as she comes into the circle. "Where have you been?"
"Busy," she sighs and laughs. "You know, damn college, takes up all my free time."
"Who's the guy?" a girl with silver hoop earrings asks, eyeing Dean.
"Oh," Jess pauses, looks over at him with the fire reflecting in her eyes. "My sister's fiancé. He's just in town for a bit. Thought I'd show him around, y'know?"
The people nod, accept this without question because they have no reason not to trust her. For Dean, it's not the first time that he has lied about who he is. It's merely the first time he is looking for something other than evil while doing it.
"Sam was by here not too long ago," another girl tells Jessica.
"Yeah. Said he had just got done with his homework. You missed him by about ten minutes or so."
"That boy has the worst timing," Jess grumbles to her, then turns to Dean. "I'm going to call him real quick. Want to just wait here?"
He nods silently, and she pulls her cell phone from its clip on her belt. She walks away from the rest of them, phone on one ear, hand pressed to the other.
"You want a drink?" one of the guys asks Dean, holding up a dripping bottle he's pulled from the cooler next to him.
Dean shrugs. "Free beer? Yeah, sure." He sits down against one of the weathered logs someone has dragged in and accepts the beer. He pops off the lid and takes a long drink. The cold liquid hits his stomach with a slippery punch.
"So how long are you in town?" the silver earring girl asks him.
He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand before answering. "Just for a few days. I'm heading back out tomorrow afternoon."
"Oh," she sighs, frowns. He decides that she's trying to hit on him. He'd fuck her later if he didn't need Jess and her answers.
"Are you guys interrogating him or something?" It's Jessica, coming out of the darkness and back to the bonfire. She walks nimbly through them, avoiding sprawled legs, to Dean where she slides his bottle out of his hand and drinks from it without hesitation. Before he can protest, she sits down between his legs and leans toward him. Her back is against his chest, and he can smell her fruity shampoo with her hair so close.
They stay at the bonfire until his eyes are burning and his back is stiff from leaning against the log for so long. He doesn't say much throughout, allows the conversations to flow around him like water that he absorbs with every splash.
At the end of the night, as they walk to the car together, the silver hoop earring girl leans over to Jessica and whispers, "You have no idea how jealous I am of your sister, Jessie, for getting to come home to that every night."
Dean blushes and snorts while Jess just punches him in the shoulder. "Stop," she says to the girl, "or he'll get a big head about it and then I'll have to deal with him the whole way home."
- - - - -
She takes him to a local bar, tells him that Sam and she came here last Halloween with some friends and probably will come again next Halloween too. The bartender knows her by name when she enters, and he asks her what she's having tonight.
"Just passing through, Eddie. Got to show my friend something. But thanks anyway, you're a sweetheart for asking."
Dean and Jessica pass through the sea of tables until they reach a short hallway with two doors on either side. Bathrooms for men on the left, women on the right. He narrows his eyes and wonders why she has brought him here of all places.
"What does this have to do with my brother?" he asks, frowning.
"A lot, actually." She looks away from Dean to a corkboard with bright neon campus flyers tacked to it. "We came here one time, me and Sam and bunch of friends. For somebody's birthday. I was heading to the bathroom and stopped to read the board when a guy came up behind me. Began touching me." She wraps her arms around herself, protective even now. "I was a bit drunk, so I couldn't get him off me. Then, suddenly, there was Sam. And he? Sam? He punched the guy right in the face. Smashed his nose but Sam didn't say anything the whole time."
Dean widens his eyes in response.
"I don't know what you guys learned growing up, but that, it really sort of changed how I looked at Sam. Not every guy you date can break somebody's nose so easily. Without thinking twice."
He looks down at her, and he suddenly feels sorry for her and her naivety. How much she doesn't know and how much she thinks she does. "Yeah," he whispers, clears his throat and tries again. "Yeah, sometimes, Sam, he can really surprise the hell out of you."
- - - - -
When they meet again under her calling, he has bandages across his face and down his neck and back from where he was sliced open from the most recent monster. His skin is puffy and raw around the edges of white gauze. He decides that he'll tell her he was in a car accident. Hit the windshield. Friend was driving drunk. Late night. It's a feasible enough excuse.
He can't miss a chance to see her again.
When he finds her at the bookstore, she hugs him as if they're old friends. After she pulls away, she reaches up and touches the side of his face, runs her fingers across the cotton gauze he's taped there.
"What were you hunting?" she asks, and the word "chupacabra" spills from his lips before he truly realizes what she has said to him.
"I've heard they're bad," she responds casually, turning away and exiting the store. He follows her. He must.
"You've known all along what we are," Dean tells her as they cross the street to enter a park with large, overhanging trees and children who squeal and play. "You knew. What I am. What Sam was. You knew and you just played along with everything I said. All my lies."
"Of course I've known." She has no guilt in her voice when she says it, and she pulls him by the hand to lead him to a bench under a bowing green tree. The sunlight trickles through the intertwined leaves and dots her faces.
"How? I never said," he sputters, more afraid than angry, and yanks his hand away from her. "Sam did—didn't he? He told you…"
She takes his hand again, wraps her fingers around his and when she lifts her eyes to his, he hears her voice in his head, You're not the only one with secrets, Dean.
He doesn't say anything after that. Only rises to his feet and walks away. A few people stare at him as he moves past them. He walks and walks until he's running out of the park and bursting onto the sidewalk, breathless and dizzy.
He looks behind him into the park. Jessica is still sitting on the bench, a small feminine shape in the distance. She makes no attempt to call out to him, and he leaves.
- - - - -
It's a week short of a month later when he returns to California. He waits for her outside one of her classroom buildings, which took him over thirty minutes of wandering to find. Through all the times they've met, she's told Dean her class schedule, but never Sam's.
Dean is standing in the shadow of a tree when she comes out of the building with a laughing group of girls.
"Jessica," he says. It's the first time he's ever said her name out loud to her, and the sound of it on his tongue startles both of them.
She stops, hand curling around the strap of backpack on her shoulder. Her friends, beautiful women with smoky eyes and swooping necklines, stop as well, following her as she walks to him. "Jess?" one of them says, confused. "What's going on?"
She makes a small, dismissive motion with her hand. "Go on," she tells them. "I'll catch up with you guys later." When they hesitate, she looks back over her shoulder at them and smiles reassuringly. "Really, guys. Go on. I'm fine." At last, seeing that she is not moving away from the stranger beneath the tree, they shrug and continue on their way. They float away on feminine laughter and meaningless conversation.
"Dean," she finally says, looking up at him. She sounds surprised, and he thinks that's funny because really, she started all of this. She's the one who lied to him. She's the one who deceived him. Who is she to be surprised?
"We need to talk," he tells her evenly. He doesn't want to be doing this. Doesn't want to be standing here and asking her this.
She nods, shifts her backpack and purses her lips. "I know."
- - - - -
They go to the coffeehouse where they first met, and she chooses the corner table just like before. She doesn't get the two of them drinks though, only sighs and says, "Do you want to ask or do you want me to tell?"
"I'll ask." She nods for him to continue. "You can read minds."
"Is that a question?" She's toying with him again, avoiding the truth as they so often do together.
"Can you read minds?" he tries again.
She pauses, plays idly with the silver diamond around her neck, then whispers, "Yes," without looking at him.
He lets this sit between them for a moment before he continues. "Then why did you need me? You told me you had questions about Sam. Why not read his mind? Why bother with me?"
She turns to face him, lifts her eyes and then drops them to the tabletop again. "You said it one time that Sam, he lets his feelings get in the way. It's hard to read him because he's so emotional about so much. I thought—" She stops, bites her lower lip. "I thought that a lot of his thoughts were just bad dreams, not reality."
"You mean what we do."
"Yes. The hunting. The monsters. I had to see you to know if it was in Sam's head or if there was truth to it."
"Then you know what I've done."
"Then you know that I'm not a good person—"
"Dean," she interrupts, trying to stop him.
"No, no, listen to me. I've lied, I've stolen—fuck, I've even killed." He laughs, bitter and cold. "I've killed a lot. You should have stopped calling me when you knew. Do you realize what could happen if my world, my life, meets with yours?"
"You're not a bad person, Dean. You're not. I knew about you, but I…I wanted to keep seeing you anyway..."
"Then why make me drive all the way out here every single time? You can't just read thoughts through the phone?" He's sarcastic when he asks it, but she's serious when she answers.
"No. It has to be through touch," she admits, and Dean instantly thinks of all the times she's held his hand, patted his shoulder or bumped against him while they walked together. "Look." She exhales, heavy and ragged. "I was getting these images from Sam about his family, and all I could see was anger. I never could actually get him to explain why he left, what happened, so that's why I called you. I guess I just wanted to know what was so bad about his family that he had to run away and not go back."
"Does Sam know?" he asks.
"Know what? About me?"
"Know that you know. I doubt he's told you anything."
"No." She shakes her head. She's not wearing as much makeup as usual, and she looks tired. "I couldn't do that to him. He needs to believe that I'm just his normal girlfriend, and he's just my normal boyfriend."
Normal. Dean smiles at the word and how she uses it. All that Sam ever wanted and he left his known abnormality for another supernatural mess he doesn't even recognize when it's sleeping right next to him.
As Dean is thinking about this, she says, cutting through his thoughts, "I think I want to kiss you."
He raises an eyebrow, questioning, but intrigued. "Yeah?" he says.
"Just to see what it's like. Just to know."
He nods, swallows the lump in his throat where his heart has leapt and held fast. He both wants and doesn't want this. Wants to both grab her and push her away. "Okay."
She leans across the table, rests her hands on the sides of his face and bends her head to his. Her lips are warm, and she tastes of cinnamon gum and lemonade lip-gloss. He closes his eyes and allows her to open her mouth to his. When she pulls away, her parting is abrupt and cold, and he opens his eyes to see her face only inches from his.
"So," he says, husky tough guy attitude laying over the thump-thumping of his heart, "what am I thinking now?"
She smiles as playfully as Sam did when he knew something that Dean didn't. "Something that I can't say out loud with all these people around."
Out of the two of them, he's the first to laugh.
- - - - -
The next time they meet, it's raining, and he watches the people run to buildings with backpacks over their heads. Inside the dormitory lounge, his coat leaves dark wet patches on the chair, and she brings him coffee in a paper cup. He accepts it with a smile and a grateful nod. He always fails to forget that California can be on the cold side every now and then.
"There's something I have to tell you," he says. "It's something that I think you should know about what I do. About Sam too. But not here. I can't tell you right here." There are simply too many people around. His words that he wants to tell her out loud are not meant for anyone but her.
"My dorm room's upstairs. We can talk there."
She leads him up the stairs where pieces of gum are pressed into the corners, and he lets her grasp his hand in her own, despite knowing what she takes from him every time she does so.
The door to Jessica's room is open, and they enter a small suite with a muted television and table with a basketful of fruit. There is a red-haired girl sitting at the table, books spread in front of her and a pencil behind her ear. She looks up as Jess enters, hand-locked with Dean, and the girl narrows her eyebrows and adjusts her glasses.
Dean thinks she's cute in that librarian sort of way, and he doesn't realize that has passed through his mind that until Jessica chuckles softly beside him and elbows him lightly in the ribs.
"Does Sam know about this?" the redhead asks. She's glaring at Dean accusingly like he should have more sense than to come into a girl's dorm room and hold her hand when she has a committed boyfriend.
"No," Jessica replies casually. "Should he?" She pats Dean lightly on the shoulder. "Just a cousin. Sam has nothing to worry about."
The redhead rolls her eyes and gathers her books. As she leaves the room, Dean can hear her sarcastically muttering something about "just a cousin, my ass" under her breath.
When she is gone and the door shut behind her, Jess takes him to one of the doors off to the side of the small room. "This," she tells him, unlocking the door, "is my room." She turns the handle, opens the door, and motions for him to enter.
The room is barely big enough for the two of them. Her bed, covered in that rarely seen periwinkle color, is shoved in a corner next to a wardrobe. She watches him look at the photos on top of the wardrobe. He scans them, seeing her with friends at parties, with her parents on her high school graduation, and of course, with Sam.
"His hair is longer," Dean remarks. "Looks like he's gained some weight." He stops himself before he can say how it looks like Sammy's finally grown up. Say something clichéd like little Sam's a man at last.
She doesn't comment, and he looks behind him to see that she is sitting on the bed, one leg tucked up beneath her and the other dangling off the bed. She pats the mattress next to her, indicating that he should come and sit beside her.
"Remember when I kissed you?" she asks quietly once he's seated and tossed his coat on the floor. Her window next to the bed is open and evening is coming in a soft roll of gray, pillowed clouds. There are puddles on her windowsill from the rain. A light breeze creeps through the screen and tousles her hair.
He nods and wants to laugh at such a question. Did she really expect him to forget? It would be nearly impossible for him to do that.
"I'd like to try it again. If you'd let me." Her eyes sparkle in the illumination from the fluorescent walk lights below her window.
"All right," he says. "Okay."
She leans into him, one hand on his shoulder, the other on his cheek. Her lips against his are tentative, and she kisses along the corners of his mouth. She bends her head, mouthing her way down the side of his neck, then up to her earlobe. "Is this okay?" she whispers, mouth next to his ear. Her words make his skin prickle with gooseflesh.
"Yes," he breathes, eyes closed and resistance crumbling. "Yes, yes."
She returns and meets his mouth again, pulls on his bottom lip with hers. At last, he sighs and opens his lips to hers. He thinks she smiles when he slides his tongue into her mouth.
Her hands slip up beneath his shirt and pull it over his head. She stops then, hair messy on her shoulders and lips wet and flushed red. Staring at him, shirtless with his amulet resting on his sternum, she pauses before reaching for him again.
She pulls her shirt off as he moves his hands up her legs, thumbs touching the hot creases of flesh behind her knees. They fall together, him on top of her, and he has his mouth on her stomach, kissing the groove of muscle by her hip where the waist of her skirt lays.
He slides back up again, kissing her lips, holds her breasts in his hands. She is strong, beautiful, so unlike any woman he has ever been with before.
"Dean," she sighs, eyes closed. "Dean."
Hearing his name brings him back to reality and he pulls away from her. He rests his weight on his hands as he looks down at her. He shakes his head, pushing himself to a seated position. His pants are unbuttoned, and his cock is hard against his zipper. But he swallows anyway and whispers hoarsely, "I can't do this."
She lifts herself on her elbows to look at him, and she smiles knowingly, confident even with her breasts lying bare against her chest and her skirt shucked up around her hips to expose polka dotted pink underwear. "Then," she says, "you're a better person than you give yourself credit for, Dean."
- - - - -
Afterwards when she's pulled her bra back on and he's done up his pants, neither bothering with a shirt, they lie together on her too small bed. He thinks of how she's the first woman in a long time that he went to bed with and he knew her name, where she lives and who she really is for more than that brief moment. But he does not love her. More than that, she is part of Sam and not him, and that, he knows, is why he couldn't go through with it.
"So," he says, lying on his back and looking up at her ceiling tinged blue in the streetlights, "was that just about getting in my head?"
He sees her smile out of the corner of his eye. "A little bit. People let their guards down when they're in bed. I thought you might, too."
"I feel so used." He laughs softly, but not unkindly, and she joins him. He doesn't ask her other reasons for kissing him. There are some questions, he believes, that should not be asked.
When they have quieted again, she rolls toward him to lie on her side and look at him.
"You came here to tell me something," she says, propping herself up on her elbow to gaze down at him. She rests her head against her curled hand. "What was it?"
He swallows. He feels uncomfortable with her staring at him even though hundreds of other girls have looked at him the same way that she does now. But none of those girls were her. He knows that much.
"Did Sam ever tell you about our mom?" Dean asks her.
She shakes her head no. "Only that she died when he was a baby. All his memories of her are hazy at best."
"She was killed. By a demon. It's what we've spent our whole lives hunting."
"Your father's obsession that he dragged you and Sam into," she says, finishing his thought without touching him. When Dean turns, question on his face, she bows her head. "I learned that much from Sam," she admits guiltily.
Dean smiles sadly, accepting her words, but not wanting to hear them. "Those demons? I think they're after my family. I think they're going to come back one day. Finish what they started with my mom."
"Am I supposed to be afraid of that?" she asks and smiles, mock bravado on her lips.
He swallows. Meets her eyes. "I am."
- - - - -
Before he leaves, he stands in her doorway and lets her hug him. She's pulled on a bathrobe with terry cloth ladybugs on its pockets. It smells comforting, like her, like morning coffee, even a little like Sam.
"They'll come for him—us—eventually," Dean tells her again, hands in his pockets and eyes on the floor between them. "You could get caught in the middle. If you leave now, you might still stand a chance. Live a normal life."
She shakes her head. "Normal's so overrated, don't you think? Dean, c'mon, I can read minds since when is that normal?"
"If it comes back—" He stops, breathes hard and edgy. "You've seen what my life is like. That could come to you if Sam has to go back."
"I won't leave him. I can't, no matter what could happen." She touches his face, and he hears her say, I love him. He loves me. That's enough.
"I don't want to see you hurt because of my family. Sam wouldn't either."
"I know what I'm getting myself into. I'm a big girl. Don't worry about me. You have enough on your mind."
Right before he turns away, she grabs a folded piece of paper from the kitchen table and presses it into his palm. "Sam and I are moving in together next month. This is our apartment address."
"So," he swallows. "I'll see you around, I guess."
She nods, hugs him again. "Yep," she agrees, "around."
- - - - -
The last time they meet, she does not call and neither does he. Dad's missing, and Dean has nowhere else to turn except for Sam. So he goes to the address that Jessica gave to him only a few short weeks ago.
When Dean and Jessica see each other again, Sam introduces them in a stiff and awkward manner. Dean walks close to her and smiles. As he jokes about the Smurfs and how she's too good for Sam, he lets his fingers brush against hers. You should have left. After this, it's never going to be normal, he thinks. If he goes with me tonight, your life isn't going to be the same again.
She smiles, cocks her head in a way that Sam would see as disapproval to Dean's flirtatious comment and in a way that Dean sees as disapproval to his thoughts. I love him, she tells Dean without speaking. Normalcy doesn't matter to me. Love does. He does.
Then Sam pushes his way between Dean and Jess protectively, wraps his arm around her waist, and Dean watches as she presses herself against him. Sam tells Dean that anything Dean has to say to him can be said to her too.
Dean sighs. He doesn't want to be doing this, but he has no choice. He knows that she knows, but he can't let Sam realize that. When he tells Sam that Dad's missing, Sam brushes him aside flippantly, angrily. Dean feels as though he's been slapped despite having expected this from his brother.
Jessica remains silent, looking up at Sam and watching his face change when at last Dean bows his head before saying, "Dad's on a hunting trip, and he hasn't been home in a few days."
When Sam excuses Dean and him, he leads the way out of their living room to the stairs that will take them to the car parked below. Dean glances over his shoulder to where she smiles faintly and then turns away to walk back into the bedroom she shares with Sam. Jessica disappears alone into the darkness, and Dean follows Sam into the night.