A/N: A huge plateful of thanks (with a second helping) to my awesome beta Kender Rock My World – I don't know how she puts up with me. Any and all remaining mistakes are my own.
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, and wishing I did never seems to work.
Warning: Rated for bad language and gritty issues. Teenchesters (Sam is 17, Dean is 21) so no spoilers.
Altered State – Part One. "Demons I get but people are crazy."
Dean is drinking a beer. It's hotter than hell; the can is ice cold and the beer so good it's like drinking liquid paradise. He's standing outside—leaning against one of the rotted wooden posts of their apartment's porch—comfortable in the cool shade of the dark shadows. One eye rests on a small group of teenage girls, who stand idly chatting at a bus stop just across the street. The other eye is on his brother, who is sitting on the porch steps with both of his own eyes deeply immersed in the book lying open on his lap.
The girls are Sammy's age. They probably go to the same school as his little brother, too, and Dean can't help but think it's no twist of fate that they're hanging around directly across the street from Sam's apartment. Especially if all the hushed giggles and swiftly stolen glances are anything to go by—and the fact that four buses have been and gone and not one of the girls has left the bus stop.
Dean drains his can as a tall brunette breaks away from the group, quickly crossing the street towards them. She comes to a stop at the foot of the porch steps, her eyes glued on Sam. Dean's almost tempted to throw his empty can at Sam's head, seeing as the kid has completely failed to notice the incredibly good-looking girl stood staring nervously at him. Dean's hot chick alarm would have been firing off a siren loud enough to wake the dead if he were in his brother's position. Sometimes Dean finds it really hard to believe they're related and secretly keeps expecting his Dad to reveal that Sam isn't actually a Winchester but in truth, Bill Gates' love child.
The girl clears her throat somewhat unsubtly and finally, finally, Sam's eyes flick away from his book. Dean smirks lovingly as Sam freezes like a deer caught in the headlights. "K—Katie?" Sam's teenage voice breaks into a high-pitched squeak on the K and Dean snorts loudly behind him. Smooth, Sammy.
"Sam," Katie chirps, and Dean melts a little; her voice is satin sheets and chocolate. Dean wonders if she's wearing lace underwear and gives her a charming smile, one she doesn't return as her eyes are still stuck on his little brother. Damn those dimples.
"Sam, I was just wondering if you're going to Carl Booker's party tonight?" Katie's hot pink nails fiddle with a wayward stand of long dark hair.
"I—I haven't decided." Sam stutters out as he stands up, one hand frantically brushing away imaginary dirt from his jeans.
Dean's eyes widen incredulously. He walks a couple of steps forward so that he's standing next to Sam and slaps his brother hard on the shoulder, painfully hard, the darn idiot. "What my brother means is that yes, he's going." Dean digs his fingertips deeper into Sam's shoulder blade as his brother begins to squirm underneath his grip.
"I'm pleased to hear it." Katie smiles, revealing two rows of blindingly white teeth. "Well, I'll see you later, then, Sam." With that, she turns and saunters back across the street. The waiting cluster of overexcited girls part and swallow her up like an amateur diver in shark infested waters.
There's a large amount of cheerful prattling going on as the group disperses and Dean gives his brother a quick sideways look. Sam's as white as milk, his hands nervously running up and down the spine of the book he's holding. Sam's eyes meet his fleetingly. "Why'd you go and do that, Dean?" he asks, as though Dean had just signed his death warrant and not fixed him up with what could possibly be the most important date of his high school geek existence.
"Sammy, if you get any squarer, Dad's going to start using you to carry the groceries. You need to lighten up a little, dude."
"Dean, I've got an English paper due on Monday. Dad's promised Caleb that I'd research the rawhead case in Cleveland for him and then I've got more research to do on those hikers who keep going missing in Coopers Wood."
"I can research tonight and you, my dorky little brother, can do your English paper in the morning—after you've recovered from the party."
"Unless that sentence starts with 'Big brother, you're totally awesome and correct as always,' I don't want to hear it."
Sam rolls his eyes. "What about if it begins with 'Dean Winchester is a gigantic pain in the ass who always thinks he knows best?'"
Dean frowns. "Does that mean you'll go?"
"Does that mean you'll get off my case if I do?"
Dean's frown quickly disappears, swapped for a lopsided grin; Dean Winchester one, whiny little brother nil. "Go have fun. Drink a keg, kiss a girl and get stupid. You're seventeen, Sammy. You leave it much later and you'll be drawing out your pension. Then the most fun you'll get is liquidizing your dinner in a blender and exceeding the five mile an hour limit on your mobility scooter."
Sam lowers his head, looking at the book hugged tightly to his chest. The English paper is important, a huge part of his grade, but if he doesn't take some time out from all the studying then Dean might get suspicious and that could mean bad news. Hell, he could go to the party and still work on the assignment when he gets home. He could even pull an all-nighter if need be, it wouldn't be the first such session he's ever done.
Dean prods Sam lightly in the stomach. Sam looks up to see a pair of huge hazel eyes shining at him. "Is widdle Sammy gonna go party?"
Pushy asshole. "Okay. Okay fine, I'll go," Sam mutters wearily.
"I rule. Now get your skinny butt inside and get changed before Dad comes home and finds out you're going to go drink beer and get naked."
"Naked—you know? Skinny dipping?" Sam's face remains blank. "Dude, you really haven't been to a proper party before, have you? At least not one that didn't involve a piñata and a clown named Mr Chuckles."
Mr. Chuckles! It wasn't my fault I missed the piñata and hit him where it hurts. Sam shudders with a grimace on his lips at the memory of being chased across a neighbor's backyard by an enraged hobbling Mr. Chuckles.
Sam takes a long shower. It's so damn hot that he keeps the temperature dial set to cold, letting the icy spray of water slowly cool his sweltering body. The shower seems to be helping clear his head, too, which feels like it's overflowing with information. Names, dates, post-mortem records, obituaries, maths conundrums, science formulas. With all the relentless nights of researching for hunts or doing homework for school, Sam's barely had his head out of a book for days.
A thin trickle of blood seeps from his nose and pools above his lips. Shit. He swipes at it with his palm angrily and stares mesmerized at his hand as the crimson smear is gradually washed away by the running water. It's the fifth nose-bleed Sam has had this week and even though at first he was scared, now he's come to accept them—an ordinary everyday occurrence—like the headaches which threaten to split his skull in two.
"Sammy, enough with the beautifying treatments already." Dean's fist bangs against the bathroom door.
Sam steps from the shower and quickly wraps a towel around his waist. He swiftly checks his face in the mirror before he opens the door. Dean is holding up two button-down shirts. "So I've picked you out the best of a bad bunch Sammy." Dean waves the one with pastel stripes and short sleeves in the air like a flag. "Geeky McGeekerton or —" Dean lifts up the other shirt; pale blue checks with long sleeves and one of Dean's hand-me-downs. "—I wanna grow up to be just like Dean."
"Jerk." Sam pauses before pointing a finger at the pale blue check shirt.
"That's my boy, and to make the image complete…" Dean holds out his leather jacket—the one Dad gave him for his eighteenth birthday and the one Sam isn't normally allowed to wear, touch or breathe on.
"But be careful. You rip it and I rip off one of your limbs, it's as simple as that. Now go have a good time."
"Dean, what are you going to tell Dad?"
"I can handle Dad." I have no clue, but you need to take a break, kiddo. You're starting to look as drained as Dad does.
Dean scratches idly at his stomach as he watches Sam try on his jacket and tries hard not to beam from ear to ear like a proud mom watching her offspring get ready for their first day at school.
Sam is four years younger than Dean, but he's already looking set to outgrow his brother and the jacket fits his lean frame like a well-worn glove. Dean whistles and Sam jerks away from the mirror to glare at his older brother. "You'll tell Dad that I'm studying late at Joe McCormick's house, right, Dean?"
Joe is one of the few school kids Sam had been able to latch himself onto since the Winchester family settled in Bartonville, Texas, just two short months ago. Whilst Joe is easily the lamest of the lame kids—from what Dean has seen of the curly blonde haired bespectacled youth so far—he can tell Joe is nice enough. And seeing as Joe hasn't tried to kill, maim or eat Sam in the last few months, he's pretty much passable in Dean's book. "It's Friday night—he wouldn't expect anything less from you, Sammy."
Sam turns and peers at himself again in the full-length mirror. Wearing Dean's jacket and his matching Dean shirt, in his eyes, he actually doesn't look half-bad for a change. His new school hasn't been a picnic, not at all. Being the new kid, academically gifted and fully clad in thrift store bargains, he may as well have walked into the intimidating red brick high school building with a giant 'L' tattooed on his forehead. Dean knows it too and it wouldn't be so crappy if it was actually true, but the fact of the matter is that Sam is as far removed from a loser as you can get.
It's always troubled Dean to know that none of Sam's classmates will ever get the chance to know the real Sam. The kid who works so hard to research for hunts that some days he has to be reminded to eat. The kid who continually puts his life on the line to backup his dad and brother on hunts. The kid who has rescued more people than the local county fire department. It sucks, beyond words, but it's called being a Winchester and it's the price they pay for the life they lead.
Carl Booker is the son of the Chief of Police at the Twin Oaks Police Department. He's six feet tall, handsome in a chiselled-chin, 90210 kind of way, hugely popular and the best track runner in the school. Or at least he had been until Sam tried out for the track team, and Carl was given first hand experience of what someone else's dust tastes like.
Carl had looked seriously pissed and Sam braced himself for something bad to happen. For his locker to get trashed, perhaps, or for one of Carl's numerous Incredible Hulk-sized friends to give him a broken nose, but later that same day Carl sought him out during lunch and invited him to a party.
Not just any party, either, but the end-of-term blowout Carl had been planning to hold in his parents' sprawling seven-bedroom house—the kind of house that comes complete with a home gym, swimming pool and tennis courts. Sam had been so stunned at the invite that he might have nodded or he might have just stood there with his mouth hanging wide open in an impersonation of a goldfish – Sam couldn't remember which.
But the knowledge that Katie Garland was going to be there had almost been incentive enough. Sam had noticed Katie on his very first day at Red Lodge High School. Katie is undeniably beautiful, intelligent, witty in a way that would even make Dean blush and simply the most lusted-after girl in Sam's year. Subsequently Sam rated his chances of scoring a date with a girl like Katie at somewhere a few million miles below zero, but what Sam didn't realize was that Katie already had her sights set on him.
Before the end of Sam's third week at Red Lodge High. Katie had found herself waiting patiently for Sam outside of his English Lit class. She'd trailed him right to the school entrance as he made his way out of the stuffy crowded building into the fresh blue skies of a sizzling hot June day. She'd followed him as he walked the long mile to a side of town her parents would have grounded her for stepping foot in.
Furtively, she watched Sam's almost graceful movements as he hurried up his apartment steps, and smiled as Sam startled when an older boy shouted out a boisterous greeting whilst stepping from the driver's side of a classic black car. The two boys bumped shoulders, the older boy swiftly feigning a sharp right hook that Sam dodged skillfully, only to be grabbed in a playful headlock, his chestnut hair mussed by a ferocious noogie as the older boy proceeded to haul him bodily— still trapped in a headlock—into the apartment building.
As she walked home alone, her thoughts were filled with Sam Winchester. She couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was about him that had struck her so hard. Perhaps it was that he was attractive but clearly didn't know it. He was also clever but didn't boast about it. It might have been that he was a fine athlete but not bloodthirstily competitive like most of the airhead school jocks. If anything, Sam was obviously different from the other boys at school, a complete breath of fresh air in a town so stale that Katie found herself struggling to breathe most days. Whatever it was about him, she was well and truly captivated.
Feeling like he's wearing a costume to a fancy dress ball, Sam rides the bus to Carl Booker's house on the respectable side of town. Dean had offered Sam a lift in the Impala, but Sam had refused on the basis that there was no way he would trust Dean not to do something embarrassing, like pretend to kiss his cheek or pat his backside as he got out the car. ("Sammy, okay, so I did do that once, but I can totally promise that it won't happen again.")
Sam hears the party even before he sees it, deafening beats shaking the ground beneath his feet. Probably some popular dance track, but Sam's unsure, seeing as his only real knowledge of music revolves around Dean's classic rock collection and his Dad's treasured 'Live at Folsom Prison' Johnny Cash LP.
The house is certainly impressive; easily a dozen or so fast cars are parked carelessly on the driveway and along the length of the tree-lined street. Sam makes his way across the manicured lawn towards the house. The windows are brightly lit and he can see the place is jam-packed with kids from school. A couple of them he recognizes, like Steve Hutchinson and Chad Bryson, jocks from the football team enthusiastically attempting to dance whilst chugging cans of beer. Sam vaguely wonders if either of them has any clue who he is. Hey, there's that kid who barely speaks more than two words unless he's talking to a teacher! Isn't that the kid who can run faster than Carl Booker, is his name Stuart something?
Sam is suddenly hit by an overwhelming urge to turn round and go home. But he knows Dean would be angry. Well, no, not angry, just disappointed. And Joe McCormick is inside there somewhere waiting for him, and however badly Sam wants to leave, he was the one who asked Joe to come and he couldn't, wouldn't, abandon his friend to the lion's den.
Sam stands for a moment, shifting his weight from one foot to the other when the door opens to reveal Carl standing on the threshold, with a beer in one hand and a huge smile on his lips. "Winchester. I knew you wouldn't wuss out, though you looked a little tempted there for a minute."
Sam shrugs noncommittally and Carl pushes the door wide, motioning for Sam to come inside. "I think your buddy is in there." Carl points in the direction of the lounge and with that he disappears into the heaving throng with a promise that he'll be back with beer.
Sam trundles into the well-furnished lounge. His eyes scan the crowded room and quickly find Joe standing alone by a huge ornate fireplace. Joe's facial expression seems to be pre-programmed to anxiety, like he thinks he's a slab of meat which has just been thrown into a piranha tank.
Joe spots Sam and instantly scurries over, relief plastered all over his face now. "Sam. Thank God, I was beginning to think you'd ditched me."
Sam smiles, genuinely pleased to see Joe. "So, good party?"
"Well, I've had a very interesting conversation with a corn chip so far but that's about it." Joe scratches at his nose. "But—it's not like I go to many parties, Sam."
Carl's head appears, bobbing towards them amongst the mass of grinding teenagers and he shoves his way through. He has a large cup of beer in each hand and passes them over. "Enjoy, fellas. If you stick around long enough the head cheerleader usually gets pretty wasted, and if you're really lucky she might do her infamous Madonna routine."
"Sounds fun. Hope it's early Madonna though, I'm not really into her new stuff," Joe pipes up. Carl crinkles his nose, giving him a look as though Joe were something he'd just found stuck to the bottom of his shoe.
"Glad to hear it." Carl leans over, putting his head close to Sam's ear. "The beer is really good." Carl winks and wanders away.
"Weird. Hey, Sam? I thought Carl Booker wanted to pummel your face?"
"Yeah, so did I, but maybe he's not such a bad guy." Sam takes a sip of the beer, which slides down his parched throat with ease. He empties the cup in a few huge mouthfuls.
"Thirsty much?" Joe asks, giving him an odd look.
"Yeah, but it's so hot and Carl's right, the beer is really good." Sam smiles widely. He can feel himself beginning to relax. All the tension slowly seeps away from his limps and any thoughts of the piles of research and homework sitting at home waiting for him starts to melt away. "Let's have another drink."
"Dean?" John Winchester kicks out a foot and pushes the apartment door open with difficultly. His arms are crammed with books and a couple hit the floor with a dull thud as he struggles his way inside.
Dean gets up from the couch and quickly retrieves the fallen books from the floor.
"Get Sam to skim through these. I need a banishing ritual. Looks like we're dealing with a malicious spirit in Coopers Wood and my money is on a teenaged girl who hung herself from one of the trees there in the 70s."
I'm fine, thanks for asking, Dad. But Dean already knows his dad has little tolerance for chitchat, not when a new hunt is at the forefront of his mind. Dean's fingers leaf through one of the books. "I've got some spare time, I'll take a look."
"Where's your brother?"
"What, studying again? He knows research comes before school work."
"Yeah, well, can we cut the kid some slack? Please, Dad? He's been working really hard on this case as it is." Or maybe you just haven't noticed your own son walking around looking like a zombie.
John eyes Dean steadily, conflicting emotions flashing across his face. "Fine, but I want him home before midnight; we need to be all over this hunt and fast—before anyone else gets hurt."
Dean smiles. A small victory, but still a victory—his Dad isn't an easy guy to get to back down by any means. "Thanks, Dad." Dean sits himself back on the couch with the disconcertingly large pile of books. You owe me big time, Sammy.
Sam's eyes are on the kids dancing in the centre of the room. Their bodies have merged together to form one great mass of vibrant color, which floats and swirls in clouds of wispy rainbow smoke. Something isn't right but he feels so good, too good to be concerned about it. For the first time in a long time, his head doesn't ache. Studying doesn't matter, research doesn't matter—he just wants to lie down and watch the colors meld together.
He holds his hand out and his fingertips sink into the shimmering thick fog of colors, until it envelops his hand, then his arm right up to his elbow. It feels like the limb is moving through molasses.
Sam can hear someone whispering his name. The voice is too soft to be Dean. It sounds like Joe, but he doesn't sound happy. He sounds scared shitless and something about that tugs at Sam's insides, but the colors are just so damn intoxicating that he can't snap out of it.
Joe glances worriedly down at Sam, who is sitting on the floor—his back lent heavily against the wall and his long legs sticking out flat in front of him—staring at his hand held up in front of his face. Joe feels sick to the stomach. Sam's normally so guarded that it's unsettling to see him looking spaced out and vulnerable. "Sam, can you even hear me in there?" Joe shakes Sam's shoulder gently but Sam's head just bobs and Sam laughs, loud and uncontrolled.
"What's wrong with Sam? Is he drunk?"
Joe jumps and looks up to see Katie Garland staring at Sam, her green eyes wide with concern. "I don't get it. He's only drank like two beers, but he's out of it. Something's wrong."
"Is Winchester having fun yet?" Carl asks, moving away from a group of his friends.
"What's going on?" Katie turns on Carl, her pretty face brimming with barely concealed anger.
"The new kid needed to blow off a little steam, is all."
"Holy shit. Did you put something in his fucking drink?" Joe hisses as he stands up to glare at Carl.
Quick as a flash, Carl grabs Joe, one hand squeezing at the back of Joe's thin neck. "You say anything to anyone and I'll make your life even more of a freakin' misery than it already is. You'll wish you'd never been born. Do you understand me?" Carl growls and stalks away.
The bright colors are changing, starting to dim, and Sam watches, fixated, as faces begin to emerge from the mist. Strange ghostlike faces with sad shrunken eyes and horrible wide gaping mouths. Sam's breathing quickens and he presses himself into the wall, pushing himself away from the faces. Dean? Where is Dean? "Deus, in nómine tuo salvum me fac..." He starts mumbling Latin but the faces continue closing in on him.
"Shit. Shit. He's freaking out." Joe crouches down next to Sam and grabs him by the shoulders, shaking him again, but roughly this time, as Sam's face begins to twist in fear. "Sam! Listen to me, it's not real. Whatever you're seeing, it's not real."
"What's Sam saying? I don't understand what he's saying." Joe glances up and realizes that Katie is crying.
Some of the kids have stopped dancing and are starting to stare and point, reminiscent of rubberneckers gawping at a car crash. Soon all the eyes in the room seem to be focused on them and nobody is moving a damn muscle to help. Whispers hang in the air, reaching Joe's ears despite the loud music.
"Help me get him outside," Joe says sharply to Katie, giving the dumbfounded spectators the best glowering look he can manage with his eyes watering. Joe and Katie lift Sam up between them and half-drag, half-carry him out of the room and outside, where they lower him carefully down onto the grass.
"Dean? DEAN!" Sam shouts, his breathing growing more erratic. Joe puts his arm around Sam's shoulder, rubbing his back. "Get away from me. Dean! What have you done with Dean?"
"Dean's not here right now, Sam, just take it easy."
But nothing seems to be getting through and Sam is growing increasingly anxious—by now his face is glistening with sweat. His eyes dart wildly, tracking something Joe and Katie can't see. Sam fumbles in his pockets, unsteady fingers searching for a weapon, salt, anything, but he only uncovers lint and a few crumpled dollar bills. Katie's hand cups his cheek, trying to hold his gaze. "Sam?"
Sam looks directly at her and for a split second he stills, his breathing starting to grow shallow, but then his eyes roll back in his head and he slumps onto the ground, his body starting to convulse.