Author's Notes: I'm not totally happy with the way this turned out, but I can't seem to fix it either. Unbeta'd because if I try to go through and edit the whole thing I'll never ever get around to writing my term paper.
Would you have answered if I'd called? – Dean Winchester, Pilot
Fuckin' sun. Fuckin' heat. Fuckin' California.
Dean brushed his hand across his forehead, sweeping away beads of sweat. He'd been viciously ignoring the trill of his cell phone for the past two days; if his stubborn bastard of a father was going to drag him to this God-forsaken state every time the tiniest whiff of something caught the air then Dean was damn well going to worry him for the afternoon.
He drove the shovel into the earth with a frustrated growl, funneling his anger into the desecration. He hadn't been able to shake his pissy mood since his dad had first mentioned the gig; it seemed like every other month he was being dragged to Sammy's state (that's what it was, now, that's what he'd sunken to) to clean up messes that a thirteen year old girl with a butter knife could handle.
And while he was digging up some Goddamn salt-and-burn, what was his father doing? Probably out stalking Sammy, breaking into his apartment to check and re-check the locks and making sure he had enough salt. Satisfying his sick need to play Daddy now that it was no longer an option while Dean fucking melted.
It was Sammy's birthday today, and instead of getting himself too drink to care he was stuck out in the blazing sun making a human fucking bonfire.
Oh, how Dean hated California. Who the hell wanted to live where there's only one kind of weather? It's not natural and frankly it freaked the shit out of Dean. California was little more than a Goddamn cesspool of polo players and pretty boy surfers. Not even its fucking ghosts were interesting.
Dean swore to God, if he had to salt-and-burn another whiny ass bitch that was pissed she didn't get prom queen, he was going to blow his own brains out.
His phone rang again. He ignored it again, hurling the shovel angrily to the side and dropping into the grave. He checked the lining of the coffin for an special circumstances—rites or rituals, just to be safe—but, shock of all shocks, it was just another boring fucking ghost.
He took a little too much pleasure in watching the damn thing go up in flames.
Dean refilled the grave and brushed the dirt off of his jacket, stalking back to the car with a tight scowl on his face. He threw the shovel into the trunk with too much force and slammed the passenger door shut.
Fuck the ten messages on his phone. What he needed was a drink.
The bar was practically empty and the pickings slim, but fuck it, beer was beer. Dean had become strangely desensitized to the scantily clad women that haunted California's beachfront joints; he'd seen so many that their faces had started to blend together and he'd never really been the kind to stay with one woman.
But tonight wasn't about that, anyway—although of course, he was open to negotiations, as always—and mostly he just wanted to get himself drunk enough to check his voicemail without punching a hole through somebody's head.
"Something bothering you, sweetheart?"
The bartender was pretty enough; short blond hair (like all of them) and distinctly disobeying the "no shirt, no service" rule that was wonderfully absent at most of the nearby bars. Dean wasn't really in the mood to play along but he did anyway because what the fuck else was he going to do with his time? "Actually, there's this girl," he flirted back, almost boredly, "I'm not sure how to ask her home without sounding like a total ass."
She smiled at him, leaning her elbows against the counter as she cleaned a glass. "Oh yeah? How do you know she's that type of girl?"
Dean grinned, kind of getting into the swing of things, and tipped toward her. "Well, I don't," he admitted with a charming half-smile, "But I'm kind of hoping to turn her into one."
She laughed, standing up and putting the now-spotless glass onto the drying rack. "What's your name?"
"Sweetheart seems works just fine," he teased easily, finishing off his bottle of Bud.
She was about to respond when the door jingled open; a crowd of twenty or so pushed through, bringing with them the hot summer air and the loud ruckus of college assholes out to get drunk.
The bartender sighed, stepping away from him and tossing him a what-can-you-do half smile. "Listen, sweetheart," she said over the din of boys, "Come back at 10 and we'll figure out how you can get your girl into that beautiful backseat of yours."
Dean sent her a promising smile that meant nothing, knowing he'd be on the road and out of California by dinnertime. The trips to Sammy's state were frequent but brief, usually just a day or two at a time. John Winchester was a masochist, but not fucking suicidal.
Or at least had too much pride to indulge any urges that might pulse beneath his skin.
He slipped into a bathroom stall to check on his latest injury; he was redressing the wound when he heard it. For a second he thought he was hallucinating. It wouldn't be the first time in the past two years that he'd imagined Sammy next to him. His little brother had become the voice in his head, and Goddamn it if he'd let that little shit keep startling—
But no, there it was again, that low rumble of a voice Dean couldn't forget no matter how much he drove. A handful of men had just entered the bathroom, and one of them was his piece of shit little brother.
Someone was saying, "I'll bet Jess was thrilled that you were celebrating with us tonight, eh, stud?"
Dean winced. Jesus, Sam, you hang out with people who say stud If he and Sammy ever spoke again (God that should not be an 'if' that should never be an 'if') he was going to bring that up at every possible opportunity, and maybe follow it up with the fact that every single one in the group—including his brother, Jesus Christ how embarrassing—was wearing the same shoe: a brown, leather flip flop with a little rainbow tag.
Three years away from home and he's wearing shoes with rainbows on them. Fucking Sammy, predisposed to be such a fucking girl.
"I told her I was going to come home sober enough to celebrate with her privately," Sam was saying (well, well, go get 'em, stud), "So I'm buying you assholes a round and then heading to her place."
"My roommate, legally buying alcohol for the first time. I'm so proud."
"Yeah. Happy fucking birthday, Winchester."
Dean made a conscious effort not to feel guilty about not calling. Birthdays weren't exactly cause for celebration in the Winchester household. 'Congratulations, son, you're not dead yet'? Yeah, didn't exactly scream cake and ice cream. Still, growing up he'd always tried to make sure that Sammy'd had a little something special on the big day. All the other kids at school got cupcakes and presents so Dean would usually scrounge up a few odds and ends for his baby brother—a new toy and some candy, at the very least.
The year Sam had turned fourteen Dean couldn't steal anything that Sam would like so he'd given him an Impala Certificate, declaring that the awkward, gangly kid could ride shotgun for a whole week. It had kind of sucked for Dean, but Sam had loved every minute of it, the fucker.
Part of him, the sunburned part that spent all day digging up graves to feed his father's sick habit, wanted to say loudly that he was the first one to get Sam drunk, that he was the one to get Sam a fake ID when he was eighteen, and that he was the first person Sam had bought a shot for.
Legally or not, you fucking California beach rats.
"Oh, man," someone had begun, "How about that gorgeous fucking car out back? It's a fucking Impala, man. What year do you think it is?"
Dean could see Sam's face from through a crack in the door; he had stiffened, his hands going still beneath the sink. "'67," He said, semi-casually, his mouth tense around the edges and brow drawn.
"I don't know, I thought it looked kind of like a '68—"
"It's a '67," Sammy said again, his so flat that no one argued. "Just trust me."
There was a brief silence, and then one of his rainbow-flip-flop-wearing friends laughed, "Put the boy in front of a Ford and he's like a lesbian in a fuckin' gay bar, but hand him the keys to a Chevy . . . fuckin' expert."
Dean was getting a headache. Fucking California, Sammy's fucking state. How long had Dad thought they could go without running into him? How long had he thought they could pretend like they wanted to purge the sunshine state of all forms of evil just because John Winchester liked the fucking beach?
He sat down on the toilet, careful of the gauze beneath his shirt and the tender skin beneath it, and dropped his forehead into his hands. He was twenty-five, for Christ's sake, hiding in a bathroom stall from his twenty-one-year-old brother. What the fuck had he done in his past life to get him such shitty karma?
There was movement toward the door. Dean was in equal parts thrilled and devastated; exactly half of him wanted Sam to just be gone, wanted to be back on the road and now, driving away from this shit hole of a state and the little brother that threw him away; wanted to be following Dad's familiar black truck and listening to AC/DC as loud as he could because who the fuck was going to complain?
Yeah. So many super times without Sammy.
But exactly half of him also wanted to bust out of the bathroom stall and grab his stupid fucking brother and hug him until it got too chick-flick to bear; wanted just to say happy fucking birthday, Sammy, have as much sex as you can and make me proud; wanted to give him something, anything, a certificate to call him collect for the rest of their lives (anything to make you pick up the goddamn phone, you piece of shit, I love you).
And exactly all of him did nothing, just stood there frozen as the group shuffled out, swapping jokes and stories, cheering for Sam and his twenty-one years of life.
And Sam was laughing with them, and smiling with them, and looked fucking happy like Dean had never been able to make him. Even though none of them had ever sewn Sammy's stomach together using cloth from the shirt on his back because they were too far from a hospital. Even though none of them had ever taught him how to unlatch a bra with one hand. Even though none of them had ever taught him to drive on late nights on dirty back roads in the middle of buttfuck while Dad was on hunt somewhere and they were bored of cartoons.
Dean and hunting and Dad were three-for-one and Sammy had always been such shit at finding bargains.
But the group shuffles out and Dean stayed where he was, and he didn't notice if Sam glanced twice at his shoes or took longer to leave than the others. He didn't see Sam's face fall in that brief moment that he was alone, didn't see him pull a small sheet of paper from his wallet that had Certificate of Riding Shotgun scrawled across the top.
Sam went to join his friends and Dean sat on the toilet in silence, finally reaching for his phone. His father picked up on the first ring, already yelling at his ear but Dean wasn't listening. He could probably recite the lecture anyway.
If you're going to be a bitch every time I send you somewhere you don't like then I'm not going to let you do solo jobs. Stop throwing temper tantrums. This isn't a fucking game, Dean. Now tell me about the goddamn job.
"Job's done, Dad," he said without emotion. "Shockingly, I had no trouble."
"Well, be back in an hour, son. One fucking hour, you got that?"
He flipped the phone shut, cutting off his father's voice as he ducked through the bar and out of the door. He tucked the cell back into his pocket and walked towards his car without looking back.
Fuck Dad. Fuck birthdays. Fuck California.
The AC doesn't work inside the Impala and the seat burns his ass when he sits down, but he doesn't roll down the window. Fuck heat, anyway. He pulls out of the parking lot and doesn't turn on the radio for the whole drive home.
He kind of likes the silence.