**Year One: Jordan**
Jordan wasn't exactly sure how the small group ended up talking to each other. In every other lecture class he attended at Stanford, the only thing he exchanged with his classmates was a dirty look whenever someone had their backpack in the way.
But, for some reason, the five people who sat in the eleventh row back in Peterson's English class all became friends. There was Jordan, who was really only at the school for the basketball scholarship; Peter, whose parents wanted him to be a doctor but would probably end up being a starving poet in four years; Jess, who wanted to save the world with a Poli Sci degree; Cindy, who had been given the choice between moving out and going to school and had chosen the latter; and Sam, ferociously determined to be a lawyer. The entry level English class was a requirement for pretty much every program at the school, and Peterson didn't attempt anything beyond reading his notes from a prepared slide show that still used actual slides. After one of the classes early in the semester, Jordan had turned to the future friends sitting beside him and voiced what all of them were thinking:
"What the hell was he even talking about?"
A brief discussion had turned into an involved conversation that moved from the lecture room to the hallway to the coffee shop and had lasted for hours. Peter patiently explained the minutiae of The Iliad to Jordan and Cindy with helpful additions from Sam and Jess. Then, they spent a good amount of time complaining about their useless prof, the general stress of college, and how at least they were better off than the poverty-stricken Columbian farmers who had slaved to harvest the coffee they were now drinking. That last part was Jess' fault, and in time everyone got used to how she could turn anything into a social cause worth fighting for.
Sam had been the first to leave, glancing at his watch in guilty surprise.
"It's only eight, Sam," Cindy rolled her eyes. "Even my crazy controlling parents don't make me come home by now. What, you got a psycho jealous girlfriend?"
"No," Sam shook his head mildly. "A brother. He's already got to stay home alone while I'm at class, I can't leave him by himself all night, too."
It was their first clue in the great mystery of Dean, and over the next few weeks Jordan wasted far too much effort trying to piece the puzzle together.
It was just Sam and Dean, no other family, and Dean stayed home working while Sam was at school. Sam was cagey about what exactly Dean did, although apparently it had something to do with designs and mechanics and patents. Dean taught Sam how to tie his shoes, liked cars and engines, and had some psychic ability to use up all the milk the night before Sam wanted cereal for breakfast. And somehow, Dean needed Sam to be home for him, because Sam was always rushing in that direction, never able to stay as late as anyone else during their Friday "we hate Peterson" rants. Jordan guessed it was some sort of disability, like Dean was in a wheelchair or something. Peter thought it was blindness, Cindy bet on agoraphobia, and Jess refused to play. Either way, no one had the courage to just ask Sam about it.
It wasn't until midterms rolled around that Jordan actually got to meet Dean. They were all terrified of Peterson's exam, having heard rumours from previous students that he had killer tests. A plan to study late into the night was formed, but Sam announced his intention of backing out, claiming that he didn't want to leave Dean alone for that long.
"Dude, you have to be there," Jordan pleaded. "You're the only one who can explain T.S. Eliot."
"Hey, I can explain Eliot," Peter protested. "He's, like, my idol, man."
"Okay, let me rephrase that. Sam, you're the only one who can explain T.S. Eliot in a way that makes sense."
"Look, if Dean being alone is the issue, why don't we all meet at your place?" Jess suggested casually. "If that's okay with you."
"Uh… Yeah, sure," Sam stammered. "I mean, I… I don't see why not…"
"Great," Jess smiled.
Jordan caught up with her after the group had disbanded with plans to meet next night.
"You're a clever chick, Moore," he complimented. "You're just as curious to find out about Dean as we are."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jess shrugged. Her grin betrayed her though.
Jordan arrived at the off-campus apartment a little earlier than planned, thanks to strangely efficient public transit. He knocked on the street-access door, which opened quicker than he had expected.
Standing in the doorway was a short kid with spiky hair, no older than twelve. A spray of freckles decorated his nose, which contrasted uncomfortably with his cold green eyes.
"Uh… I think I have the wrong place…" Jordan was on the verge of tiptoeing away and texting Sam to confirm the address when the kid called him back.
"You a friend of Sammy's?"
"Yeah. I'm Jordan."
The kid opened the door wider and stepped out of the way. "Sam just ran down to the corner store. He freaked out when he realized that the only thing we have to eat in the house is canned ham and crackers."
Dazed, Jordan followed the kid inside. "You're Dean?" he finally guessed, incredulous.
"Yeah," the kid nodded. "What, you were expecting a dog or something?"
"No, just someone… older," Jordan confessed.
Dean scoffed. "Yeah, aren't we all," he replied. "Take a seat, man. Sam'll be back soon and you guys can start geeking out over some dead guy's scribbling."
If any other twelve-year-old had tried that, Jordan would've been tempted to squash them with his thumb. When Dean said it, however, Jordan found himself stumbling for a comeback.
"It's called literature," he replied, failing to remember that a comeback should make him look less like a dork, and not like a pretentious tool.
"Whatever," Dean snorted. "I read that Homer guy when Sam was slogging through it. Man, that's some crazy shit. And Odysseus was a prick."
"You shouldn't swear," Jordan gaped. Then, he winced internally. How was this kid making him look like a complete ass? For that matter, how had this kid read The Iliad and understood enough of it to make a crude remark on the main character?
Sam returned then, thankfully rescuing Jordan from any more awkwardness.
"Hey, Jordan," Sam greeted, frowning slightly. "Everything okay, Dean?"
"Fine, Sam," Dean rolled his eyes. "We're just talking about The Iliad. Getting a head start on the studying."
Sam's frown deepened. "You both hate that book."
Dean turned and gave Jordan the first grin he had seen on the boy. "What do you know? We actually do have something in common."
After that first encounter, Jordan took his cues in dealing with Dean from Sam. Dean was obviously a different sort of kid, and Sam treated him as if he was a lot older than he could possibly be, like an adult instead of a boy teetering on the precipice of puberty. Jordan didn't even know how old Dean was until his birthday rolled around in January, the same day as Jess', actually.
The whole group had gathered at Sam and Dean's, the unofficial hangout location because it was the only place where Sam didn't have to leave early. No one minded, anyway. Dean actually fit into the group strangely well, considering that he was nearly a decade younger than everyone else.
Jess was turning nineteen, and was starting to look a little more believable with her fake ID. After they had sung for both Dean and Jess, Cindy turned to Dean and asked him.
"How old are you now?"
"Twenty-four," Dean replied automatically.
Jordan roared with laughter, and even Jess smiled into her slice of cake.
"Try again," Cindy prompted.
Dean glared at Cindy, but when the expectant silence didn't ease up he flicked his gaze to Sam.
"Twelve. Dean's twelve," Sam answered quickly, leg bouncing at his side.
"Yeah," Dean drawled, not taking his eyes off his brother. "That's how old I am."
Dean was in a funk for the rest of the night, even with presents to take his mind off of things.
The group had gotten together to buy Dean a sweatshirt from the Stanford bookstore (and, no, it wasn't cheap of them, they were all just a little broke and the Stanford logo was almost as expensive as the tuition) and Dean pulled it over his head at the prompting of Peter, who, as the designated photographer of the event, wanted a picture of the moment.
The sleeves hung past Dean's wrists and the fit was too loose to be practical.
"You'll grow into it," Jess remarked.
"I remember twelve was the year I started shooting up," Jordan added. And if his brother was anything to go by, Dean wasn't destined to be a midget his whole life.
"Right," Dean replied shortly, looking even more pissed than he had been about the age thing, if possible.
Dean went to bed early that night, waving off concerns for his welfare and giving permission for the party to keep going.
"He's had a long day," Sam shrugged. "Look, why don't we head out for the rest of the night? Dean'll be fine on his own for a bit."