Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to someone else, namely Kripke and the folks at CW.
Beta'd: By the ever fantabulous Wysawyg. Green is a lovely color, isn't it?
I had homework after she beta'd, so as always, all remaining errors are mine.
Special Thanks: To Carocali, the best research assistant a girl could wish for.
Dedicated: To Jen B – you know why! Squee!
Time Line: Early June, 1998. Dean is nineteen and Sam is fifteen.
Sam slammed the ice pack down on the exam table with enough force to rattle teeth. "Dean, this is the dumbest thing you've ever done!"
"Oh, I don't know about that. Remember that waitress in Tampa?" Dean shuddered.
Rose sat down on a stool by the counter and circled her ankles enjoying the stretch of tired muscles. Two full days of covering for Shelly had left her feeling run down and bone tired. The only highlight of her day would be walking through the door any moment now. Over six feet of muscle, jade green eyes and megawatt smile. Not to mention he could charm the socks off any girl here, but he always sat at her table.
The bell over the door chimed, signaling the entry of a customer. Rose sighed and brushed short locks of reddish-brown hair behind her ears. Looking up, she smiled. He was here. "Dean!" Rose greeted him warmly. "Saved your booth for you. I'll be right over with coffee."
He winked and graced her with a wide smile of her very own. "Thanks, Rose," he replied.
Rose pulled two menus out of the rack, not that Dean would need one. He had been stopping here almost every day for nearly six weeks now. She grabbed a pot of coffee and sauntered over Dean's booth in record time. Rose poured the coffee into a waiting mug and set the menus on the table. "How are you today, Dean?" she asked with a smile.
"Better now that we're here," Dean replied, his eyes twinkling. He picked up the menu, but did not bother to open it. "So, what's good today, besides you?" Rose giggled, a slight pink tinged her cheeks.
A half-smothered snort drew Rose's attention to the other occupant of the booth. "Sam," she acknowledged. A mop of brown hair bobbed in affirmation from behind a thick copy of the 'World History' book. She had always hated history. "Care for anything to drink besides water today?"
"Iced tea, please," Sam replied, his hazel eyes making their first appearance over the top of the book. "No lemon." He and Dean exchanged amused glances.
"Got it," Rose replied as she turned her attention back to the older brother. "So, what'll you have?"
"Two specials," Dean answered, handing her back the unopened menus.
"Coming right up," Rose stated as she sashayed back to the kitchen.
"Dude, I told you," Sam said, closing his history book and stashing it in his backpack. "I get iced tea with no lemon every time and every time she still asks me what I want to drink."
"She doesn't hate you, Sammy," Dean smirked. "At least no more than any other teenager that wanders in."
Sam scowled. "It's Sam," he reminded his big brother. "And I didn't say she hated me, I said she likes you better."
"Can't blame the girl for that," Dean teased.
Sam shot him the 'whatever' glare and asked, "Is Dad still leaving tomorrow?" He looked up when Rose placed a bowl of soup and a glass of iced tea in front of him. "Thanks."
"Yep," Rose acknowledged. She topped off Dean's cup of coffee and leaned over on the table. "Do you need anything else?"
"I'm good," Dean replied with an edge of suggestiveness.
"I'm sure you are." Rose snapped her gum and flashed Dean a toothy smile. "Be right back with those specials."
Sam rolled his eyes and attempted to harpoon the floating lemon wedge with his fork. "Dean," he said trying to regain his brother's wandering attention. Dean's eyes had followed Rose back to the kitchen. "Dean." Sam snapped his fingers several times in front of his brother's face.
Dean batted Sam's hand away. "Knock it off, Sam."
"I will if you can stay focused on our conversation for more than five minutes," Sam quipped, taking a sip of iced tea and frowning at the bitter taste. He tipped the sugar dispenser and poured a granulized stream into his glass before stirring.
"Got enough sugar there?" Dean teased. "Between your sugar and caffeine habit and the amount of worrying you do about everything you're gonna have high blood pressure by the time you're twenty."
"And you're going to have an STD," Sam shot back with a self-satisfied smirk.
Dean spluttered into his coffee. "Good one," he conceded. At Sam's continued grinning he added, "You're gonna pay for it, but it was good one. Besides, I always wear safety gear when I participate in extra-curricular activities."
Sam could feel the heat of embarrassment creeping up his neck. "Don't worry, Sammy," Dean reassured him. "I won't be too hard on ya."
"I'm not worried," Sam shot back with false bravado. "Dad'll stop it before you get too far out of hand. I think he's still angry about the plastic wrap on the toilet seat."
"There's only one flaw in your logic there, geek boy," Dean quipped with a smirk. At Sam's raised eyebrow he finished, "Dad's leaving."
"Shut up," Sam mumbled into his soup. He contemplated the hunt their father would be joining Bobby on tomorrow. Dad didn't normally hunt with anyone other than him and Dean, at least not since they were old enough to join in. That alone was enough to make Sam suspicious. His dad had voiced the dubious reason of the hunt only taking approximately three weeks and there not being any need to pull Sam out of school with only a week left until summer break. Dad had pulled him out of school plenty of times, so the argument did not quite sit right with Sam. He didn't know many of the details of the hunt, but he was pretty sure Dean did and he wasn't very forthcoming. "About this hunt…."
"Two blue plate specials," Rose announced depositing the plates on the table. Sam sighed, frustrated at the repeated interruptions to his attempts to squeeze information out of his brother. Rose and Dean both ignored him and in fact, Rose practically lay on the table she leaned over it so far. "Do you need anything else, Dean?" she oozed.
"Nope, I'm good," Dean replied. "What about you, Sam?" He peered around Rose's ample chest and waggled his eyebrows at his little brother.
Sam resisted the urge to sigh again, something for which he felt he should get a scout badge. "I'm fine, thanks."
"He's fine," Rose repeated, nodding her head at Dean. He nodded his head at her and after a few moments of awkward silence she peeled herself off the table and walked away slowly with an exaggerated sway of her hips.
"She's hot," Dean remarked in her wake. He picked up his BLT and took an enormous bite.
"She's obvious," Sam countered.
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Dean said around a mouthful of sandwich. This time, Sam did not try to stop the eye roll. His brother was incorrigible. "When're finals?" Dean asked.
"I had one today and I have two tomorrow," Sam replied, surprise lacing his tone. He did not realize Dean kept that close track of his schedule. It should not have come as any surprise, experience had taught him Dean kept a pretty close eye on everything he did. It was both a blessing and a curse at times.
Dean rolled his hand in a signal for Sam to continue. "Trig today, History and Advanced Lit tomorrow," he supplied.
"So, that leaves you free this weekend?" Dean asked before taking a gulp of coffee.
"Yeah," Sam replied, drawing out the word in suspicion. "Why?"
"No reason," Dean replied with a carefully guarded look. "Keep it free."
"Okay." Sam ate his sandwich, his mind whirling over the implication of Dean's statement. Dean could have anything planned. A free weekend without school or hunting was a rarity for them. He could feel the corners of his lips turn down as his thoughts turned to hunting. Dean had still avoided answering his questions.
Dean shook his head in frustration. He could tell Sam's thoughts had refocused on his unanswered questions despite Dean's attempts to distract him. His little brother could be annoyingly focused and determined when it came to sniffing out all the facts.
Bobby had called Dad for help on a hunt on Mackinac Island and while it would keep him out of touch for awhile, Bobby would be with him. Dean had helped with the research, but it wasn't enough. He wanted to go with his dad on this hunt. He always felt more comfortable when he could keep his eyes on Dad and Sammy's backs. All of which brought him back full circle.
He had been the one to convince Dad to let Sam finish out the school year. Not that it had taken much convincing; it really had been the smarter choice. Sam only had a few days left of classes and then they could pack up the gear and join Dad and Bobby in Michigan. They would not join the hunt, but they'd be close and could provide help if needed.
Although it had been his suggestion, the idea of his dad being in one place and Sam in another gave Dean a case of wracked nerves. It would be next to impossible to keep tabs on both situations and he had to watch out for both members of his family. His dad was the one headed into an unknown hunt, but no one seemed to attract supernatural crazies like his little brother.
Dean figured he had some leeway on timing because Bobby had said it would take about a week of research before they could even start hiking into the hunting ground. Tourists were disappearing and when they were found, there wasn't much left of them. A free weekend would give Dean a little time alone with his brother doing something they rarely were able to do, waste time on a little fun.
A bit of financial finagling and a great deal of flirting with a female scalper had found him two tickets richer to the Marlins versus Mets game on Saturday. The Marlins were a new team, but they had won the World Series last year. The idea of spending a guilt-free day watching a game with his little brother was too hard to resist even if it did take them nearly three hundred miles in the wrong direction.
Sam's hand waving in his face alerted Dean to the fact he had missed something his brother had said again. "Dean, you know something about the hunt, don't you?" Sam asked.
Dean ran a hand through his hair and down his face in frustration. Sam played dirty pool. He knew the exact tone of concern coupled with lost puppy look that melted Dean's resolve every time. "Yeah, I do," he conceded in a rush of expelled air. "Look, it isn't anything any more dangerous than anything else Dad has gone up against. Bobby just needed Dad's help, that's all. Don't worry."
"If there wasn't anything to worry about, you wouldn't be so evasive," Sam countered, going straight down the line of reasonable insistence that so often rubbed their father the wrong way.
"Oh, I don't know about that," Dean replied. "I might just like yanking your chain."
"You do," Sam conceded. "But it's different when you're hiding something from me." Sam's stomach rumbled in protest and he grimaced.
"You feeling okay?" Dean asked, happy for the opportunity to change the topic. Sam could be like a pit-bull in his dogged persistence.
"I, uh, I'll be right back," Sam forced out. He disappeared in a whirlwind of gangly limbs, tripping twice on his way to the restroom. Dean suppressed a chuckle. Sam had been growing so quickly he sometimes stumbled in an uncoordinated shuffle, seemingly unable to keep track of his legs.
Sam had literally been growing at a phenomenal rate of nearly a half inch every two weeks. He loomed perilously close to Dean's height and Dean worried Sam would pass him before the end of the year. There was something cosmically unfair about being the oldest and not being the tallest, but Dean had stopped expecting fairness from the universe over fourteen and half years ago.
As Dean finished the last bite of his sandwich, Rose sat down in Sam's vacated seat. "Is he okay?" she asked, her face a picture of concern.
"Yeah, he has finals this week. Grades mean a lot to Sam. He's a geek," Dean explained with a wide smile.
"I wish grades had meant more to me when I was in school," Rose replied wistfully. "Maybe I'd have a better job."
"Hey, it's a good job," Dean reassured her. "And you're good at it."
Rose grinned bashfully under the unexpected compliment. She seemed to debate what to say before stating, "Dean, I had a lot of fun the other night and I kind of hoped we could make another night of it."
"I'm free tonight," Dean replied with a grin. His expression became serious and he added, "But I have to be honest, Rose. Sam and I are leaving town this weekend and I don't know if you want to go on another date knowing it's the last one."
Dean thought he saw a momentary look of anger cross Rose's features before settling back to a decidedly neutral gaze. "I don't mind. I'm not looking for anything serious. Just a little fun."
He smiled. "Now that, I can do."
Sam heaved, resting his arm on the cool porcelain. God he was sick. He had not actually vomited, but he certainly felt as if he needed to. He rested only a minute longer and despite his roiling stomach, stood to rejoin his brother. If he stayed away too long, Dean would come looking for him. It was embarrassing enough getting sick in a public restroom without adding an audience to his humiliation.
He steadied himself by grasping the sink with both hands. He stood for a moment, head bowed, until he could remove one hand to turn on the faucet. He splashed cold water on his face and washed his hands. Sam took a look in the mirror and satisfied with his appearance, headed back out to the diner.
He could see Rose seated at the booth with Dean. His brother said something to Rose causing her to laugh and place a hand on his arm. Sam shook his head in amazement. Dean certainly worked fast.
Sam approached the booth, sure he would have to bodily force Rose out of his seat when Dean spared him the trouble. "You look like shit, Sammy," Dean remarked, sliding out of the booth and indicating Sam should slide in. "Seriously, are you okay?"
"Yeah," Sam replied. He knocked his knee on the table's center pole on the way in. Ouch. "Just a little queasy that's all." A half-truth always went further towards deceiving his brother than a complete lie.
"We'd better get going," Dean remarked, not sitting back down. He tugged at Sam's sleeve to emphasize his point.
"I could bring him a glass of milk," Rose suggested. "That might settle his stomach."
"I'm fine, really," Sam interjected.
"Milk would be good," Dean replied.
"What am I, five?" Sam asked with a frown. "No milk."
"I'll be right back," Rose said pointedly ignoring Sam's protest. She quickly vacated the booth and Dean slid into the red vinyl booth on Sam's previous side.
Sam could tell Dean did not like his back to the door because he looked over his shoulder twice before addressing him. "Exams?" Rose set a glass of milk down in front of Sam on a fly by to serve the table next to them.
Sam nodded. "Probably," he sighed. There was no way to fight Dean when he went into super-big-brother mode. "Really, Dean, I'm good. Let's get going. I'd like to spend some time with Dad tonight. You know he'll be gone before we get up in the morning."
"Don't think you're going to get any more out of Dad than you did me," Dean remarked. "Drink your milk." He nodded to the glass growing warm on the table.
Sam scowled and mouthed Dean's words back at him before taking a drink. By the time half the milk disappeared, his stomach pains had eased. He gave the passing Rose a wane smile of appreciation. "Thanks," he said.
"I'm just glad it worked," she replied, setting the bill down in front of Dean. "Pick me up at seven?"
"I'll be there," Dean agreed. He tossed a twenty onto the table and waited for Sam to gather his backpack. "Let's go. Dad'll be home soon."
Sam nodded and trudged behind his brother. His rolling stomach calmed, but not cured, he pressed a hand against it when a rumbling sound signaled a possible revolt. This was not the only time he had become sick after eating at the diner. The first time he had felt so sick that Rose had actually taken pity on him and packed up some chicken soup to go. Sam believed that was the first night Dean had asked Rose out on a date.
In fact, Sam would not choose to keep eating at the Iron Skillet if it weren't for Dean. His brother not only enjoyed Rose's company, he liked the food and Dean with his very own cast iron stomach never got sick.
Sam slid into the passenger seat and leaned his head against the window. "Are you sure you're okay?" Dean asked from his place behind the wheel. "I can cancel my plans for tonight." He checked his mirrors and pulled out into traffic.
Sam frowned and replied, "Why would you do that? Dad's home and this is probably your last night to go out." Sam would not mind if Dean went out after their dad left on the hunt, but he knew his dad and he knew his brother and neither of them would find that acceptable.
"Yeah, Dad has a terrific bedside manner," Dean joked, lowering his voice and clipping his tone. "Samuel, if you're going to be sick, grab a wastebasket. If you get anything on those silver bullets you'll be up tonight until you get them all cleaned."
Sam laughed and wrapped an arm around his rebellious stomach in support. Dean did not often impersonate their father, even in jest, but no one could do it better. He thought back to the last time he had been sick. He had stopped at the diner without Dean after school and had felt so poorly that Rose had given him a ride home.
He had been lucky his dad was out on a week-long hunt and it had only been Dean greeting him at the door with a practical stranger in tow. Dean had helped him to bed and checked on him frequently, but he had heard Dean and Rose talking in hushed voices for several hours.
"It'll be fine. I'm only planning on talking to Dad for a little while and then turning in early," Sam reassured him.
"If you're sure," Dean replied, turning into the apartment complex. The ramshackle apartments were located in a less than desirable neighborhood, but they had been a real home for however short a time it had lasted. "Because I made plans with Rose tonight and I think she wants to…"
Sam held up his hand and said, "I don't want to know or think about what you and Rose may have planned. My stomach's upset already."
Dean slapped him lightly on the chest in response. "That's two I owe you."
Rose bussed the Winchester's table and sighed contentedly. She had another date with Dean. If only he did not always have his little brother glued to his side, it would be so much better. She knew a lot of families who were close, but the Winchester brothers spent an exorbitant amount of time together for how old they were.
Usually kids Sam's age had sports, school activities or girls to keep them occupied. Sam seemed to have none of those things and she found him annoyingly underfoot when she would have preferred the company of his older brother.
Oh sure, Sam seemed like a nice enough kid, but he sucked time from Dean that could be spent on other pursuits, such as spending time with her, if he wasn't around. He did serve a useful purpose though – he was a straight shot to Dean.
Rose slowly poured the remaining iced tea in the sink, watching the brown liquid circle the hole and disappear down the drain.
AN: I was planning a one-shot based on the Croatoan quote, but after a general idea prompt from Phx on SFTCOL(AR)S it morphed into something different.
Incidentally, the Marlins really did make it to the World Series in 1997 (one year previous). They beat the Cleveland Indians to win the Series.