Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Author's Note: So, if anyone's wondering about Our Echoes Roll, that should be updated in a day or two. With some brotherly schmoop. In the meantime, have a one-shot.
The idea for this story came from Cheryl, so even more thanks than usual to her. ;-)
Summary: The boys need a break, so they decide to spend the weekend at a beach house belonging to a former client.
Sun, Sand, Sammy
It had been a hard couple of weeks, so I wasn't surprised when Dean announced that he wanted to take a break. What did surprise me was what he wanted us to do on our break. I expected him to produce a list of summer rock concerts and insist that we hit them all, or maybe go to Vegas to replenish our cash supply.
Instead, he asked me if I wanted to take the Marlowes up on their offer.
The Marlowes? They were a young couple with lots of money (he was an Investment Banker and she was a partner at one of New York's biggest law firms) two children, a dog, a cat and a goldfish. They lived in a sprawling apartment overlooking Hudson Bay with the children, dog, cat, goldfish, and, until a few months ago, a poltergeist.
That was where Dean and I had come into the picture. Dean had had a call from Kate Marlowe, asking if he was the man who took care of unusual pest problems. We'd gone over, found the poltergeist, and banished it without any trouble. (Shut up, Dean. It didn't almost strangle me with one of Cameron Marlowe's ties. I had everything under control.)
The Marlowes had been so grateful that they'd offered us the use of their beachfront villa in California whenever we wanted – all we'd have to do would be to call and make sure it was empty. (That last part was because Dean looked horrified when Cameron suggested that we go over the next time they were having a weekend party there. I would have thought that Dean would've jumped at the offer of a weekend of free booze and pretty girls in bikinis, but apparently he's more of a prude than he pretends.)
Dean called Cameron, who confirmed that the villa would be empty the next two weekends. We could pick either one we wanted, and Cameron would phone the caretaker to air it out and give us the keys when we got there.
I did the shopping. Left to himself Dean would have lounged on the beach in the same baggy jeans and eight layers of shirts that he wears in dead-end dives, because "Dean Winchester doesn't do shorts". Well, tough luck. Dean made me wear that stupid shirt and that even stupider cowboy hat when we had to go back to meet Samuel Colt. I fully intended to get back at him for that.
When Dean saw the shorts and beach shirts I'd got him, he looked like he was going to burn the shopping bags and kill me, not necessarily in that order. I widened my eyes and pouted. (Of course I did it on purpose, jerk! And knowing that it's fake hasn't ever stopped you from giving in, has it?)
It was pretty late when we got there, so we didn't even think about hitting the beach that day. We picked up the keys, Dean chatted up the caretaker's daughter, and then we went straight to the villa.
It was only when Dean unlocked the door and I stepped in, carrying both our duffels, that I realized this would mean I'd have to sleep by myself. It was a huge place: there were three bedrooms on the ground floor, and that wasn't even counting Cameron and Kate's and the kids' rooms on the floor above. And this was supposed to be a break for Dean. I couldn't expect him to share a room with me when he didn't have to just because I had fewer nightmares when I could hear him breathing. It was hardly Dean's fault I wasn't strong enough to deal with it on my own.
"Dude," Dean said impatiently from behind me. "What the hell are you doing? Pick a room."
"Yeah," I mumbled, trying not to think of what it would be like to wake up alone in the dark.
I didn't spend much time choosing. I dumped my duffel in the nearest room and Dean's in the one next to it – because it wouldn't be so bad if he was just in the next room, and I was sure Dean wouldn't mind that – and went back out.
Dean was exploring the kitchen cupboards.
"How does spaghetti sound, Sammy?"
Dinner was good. Dean's always been an awesome cook. He doesn't cook too much now – it's always greasy diner food for us – but when he does it's like going home to your mother's cooking.
After dinner Dean found a local football game (I tried to get to get him to watch the US Open, but apparently tennis is gay) and we sat down on the couch to watch it. I wasn't quite sure when I dozed off; I woke up to find myself leaning on Dean's shoulder. He was looking down at me with an expression halfway between amusement and exasperation.
"At least you didn't drool," he noted.
"Could've woken me, dude," I muttered, pushing away. I was trying not to feel too mortified – it was Dean's fault for not waking me, the jerk – but there was no getting around the fact that I'd fallen asleep on my brother's shoulder. It was one thing if I was sick or hurt, but I was neither, and it was just embarrassing. "I'm going to bed."
I went to my room, grabbed some clothes, and went in to shower. I flicked the knob to hot, as hot as it could get – it hurt, but it was better than cold water that would remind me of the endless lake of ice where Lucifer and Michael were still trapped.
I would get through this night. I was fine and I wasn't a freaking baby and I didn't need Dean to hold my hand all the time.
I stumbled out ten minutes later, feeling red and raw from the hot water but not the tiniest bit more optimistic about my chances of nightmare-free sleep.
I blinked, certain I was seeing things, because Dean couldn't be sitting on the bed closest to the door sorting through his duffel.
"Dude, what the hell?" Dean huffed, establishing that he was real and not a hallucination. "Why'd you go hiding my stuff in the other room? Took me forever to find it. Is this some kind of vacation game you invented? Something you and your friends used to do to each other when you took weekend breaks from Stanford?"
"Dean?" I said stupidly.
"Hello, Sam. My name is Dean Winchester and I'm your big brother. Any of that ringing a bell?"
"I thought – I thought you'd want –"
"Yeah, well, you're an idiot," Dean said shortly. "Stop staring at me and get your ass in bed. I don't want to waste half of tomorrow waiting for you to wake up." Before I could react, he'd manhandled me into bed, threatened me with an ass-kicking if I ever tried to scald myself in the shower again (I don't have any idea how he knew), and pulled the sheet halfway up. "Go to sleep."
Dean sighed. "Don't be a girl, Sam. Go to sleep."
I wish I could say I slept without nightmares, but the truth is that even Dean's presence isn't always enough to keep them completely away. I woke up twice that night, once to see Dean's eyes watching me from the other bed, once to find myself gathered up in his arms with his hand rubbing comforting circles on my back.
When I woke up in the morning, the room was empty. Sunlight was pouring through the window and I could smell pancakes cooking.
We went to the beach right after breakfast. The villa had its own private strip of beach – it wasn't fenced off or anything, but it was one of those places where there's a ten-mile-long stretch with only like three houses and everyone knows where their property ends and the neighbours' begins.
Dean actually wore the shorts I'd got him. They fit perfectly, and if there'd been any girls around Dean would have had an even easier time getting company than usual. (Of course, if there'd been anyone but me around Dean wouldn't have been caught dead in shorts.)
I got to work building a sand castle – or, at least, I got to work trying to build a sand castle. I've always wanted to build one of those ten-foot-tall ones you see in summer supplements, but it's never been possible. When we were kids there was never time to go to the beach, at Stanford I always wound up having too much other stuff to do, and since I got into hunting… can you imagine going to Dean Winchester and telling him you want to build a sand castle? Exactly. Neither can I.
(Ow! Dean!) This, of course, is because you and I are both stupid. If that overpriced college education had been worth it I would've told Dean I wanted to go to the beach right after we ganked that Wendigo in Blackwater Ridge and he would've made it happen because Dean Winchester is awesome. (You can stop twisting my arm now. Jerk.)
Anyway, as I was saying before Dean assaulted me, I've always wanted to build a sand castle. I figured this was the time. Dean had been extra-gentle since Cas brought the wall down, like he was scared I might break if someone talked too loudly. If there was ever going to be a time to build sand castles without being laughed at or called a geek or a girl (or, Dean being Dean, a geeky girl), that was it.
I got to work, and other than asking mockingly if I wanted him to run down to the store for a shovel and pail ("I saw some pink ones with unicorns on them, Sammy") Dean left me alone. He did occasionally fling a beach ball at my sand castle (apparently Dean did some beach-shopping of his own) but he always made sure I was watching him so I'd catch it before it did any serious damage.
Then Dean went in to fetch a cooler of beer, because drinking before lunch is how he can identify a vacation.
I'd been at it half the morning by then. I had most of the base done, the outside walls up, and I was halfway through digging a moat (I know, but even hunters need breaks). I got to my feet, stretching the kinks out of my back.
I heard footsteps behind me. I was a little surprised, because the house was in the other direction, but maybe Dean was trying to sneak up on me or something. Just the kind of thing he'd do, scare me for the hell of it and call it honing my reflexes.
I got up and turned, mouth open to call Dean a stupid jerk.
I stopped short when I saw the man standing there. Shorter than Dean, blue eyes and blond hair and the toned body of an athlete.
I hadn't expected to see him ever again.
From the look on his face, he hadn't expected to see me, either.
"Sam," he said. I was impressed at how well he managed not to sound accusing. "I thought – wow. I never imagined you'd be here. How have you been, man? We haven't heard from you for years. Not since…"
"Yeah," I got out through a tight throat. "Yeah, I've been good, man. How are you?"
"You don't look good," he said shrewdly.
From somewhere behind me I heard Dean yell, "Sammy, heads up!" I knew the beach ball was coming, but I couldn't make myself turn and catch it before it wrecked the sand castle.
I heard it hit, heard my morning's work crumbling, and I really didn't care.
"Sam!" Dean's voice was closer this time – and worried. "Sam, what – oh." Dean came up next to me, giving my companion the particularly baleful look he reserves for 'things that hurt Sammy'. "Sam, you going to introduce me to your new friend?"
I nodded. "Dean, this is Kevin – Jessica's brother. Kevin –"
"I know," Kevin cut in. He held out his hand. "Dean. I've heard a lot about you – you were all Sam talked about when he was drunk."
Dean's hand, the one not shaking Kevin's, was on my back. "Hey, man."
"I'm here with my wife and our daughters," Kevin went on. "We have twins." I felt a pang of guilt. Jessica's brother, and I hadn't even known he was married, let alone that he had children. "I… I tried to get in touch with you, Sam. Anyway – didn't know you owned a place here."
"We don't," I said. "It belongs to some friends. Dean and I were just taking a weekend off."
"Sam – I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to – to bring up any painful memories. I just – well, I saw you, and I had to come and say hi. Why don't you come and meet Cathy and the kids later? I'd like them to meet their Uncle Sam, even if it's only once."
I stared at him. Uncle Sam?
"Oh, come on, Sam," Kevin said softly. "My little sister gave her heart completely to you. You're like a brother to me. That doesn't change just because she's not here anymore."
My throat was too tight to speak. Fortunately, Dean, sensing my problem and knowing what I wanted, answered for me. "Sure, man. I know Sam would love to meet your daughters. I'll drop him off at your place –"
"Oh, you too, of course!" Kevin exclaimed. I knew him well enough to know he meant it. "I didn't for a minute… Any brother of Sam's, you know. Actually, why don't the two of you have lunch with us today?"
"Sure," Dean said easily. "We'd love to."
After Kevin left, Dean walked me back past the now-ruined sandcastle to the deck chairs he'd brought out along with the beer. I was infinitely grateful that he didn't say a word, just sat down on the edge of his deck chair and let me sprawl on the sand with my head on his knee and his hand in my hair.
"You never told me Jess had a brother," he said lightly after a few minutes. "So you're an uncle."
"Dean, I'm not –"
"He was right, Sammy. You were planning to marry Jessica – you would have married her if Azazel hadn't gotten to her. You should go see the kids."
"You'll come with me?"
"You want me to?"
"Please," I begged.
"I'll think about it." I knew Dean was pulling my leg, knew he wouldn't make me go alone, but I couldn't keep myself from looking at him imploringly. "Relax, Sammy." He ruffled my hair. "Dude, you don't have to pull the eyes when you know perfectly well you're going to get what you want anyway. I'll go with you."
Half an hour later, we went back inside to clean up.
The Moores – and it was hard to think of Kevin as being married and having kids and calling himself The Moores – had a spacious but unostentatious house with a large patio from which a short flight of steps led to the beach. Cathy was a pretty woman around Dean's age, dark-haired and dark-eyed. The children weren't identical: Megan looked like her mother, and Jennifer was so much like Jess that it almost broke my heart.
(Dean, I'm fine. Shut the hell up and let me finish.)
Dean's hand was on my back again by the time introductions were through, and I was so relieved for the support that I didn't even try to push him away.
It was a surprisingly easy afternoon. Kevin and Cathy clearly didn't think I was OK and didn't expect me to be. Kevin had accepted me wholeheartedly on the long-ago day when Jess had introduced me to her family as my boyfriend Sam and somehow it didn't surprise me that he still thought I was family. It did make me feel guilty about not trying to stay in touch with him.
"Don't worry about it," Kevin said when I tried to apologize. "I know how it is, Sam… And I didn't try too hard, either. For a while you stayed in touch with the others, and Zach could've told me how to get hold of you. It was just… too hard." Then he smiled. "But Dean's been taking good care of you, right?"
"Dude, I'm a big brother," Dean joked, and then flushed when he realized what he'd said.
Kevin brushed off his apologies. "I understand, Dean. And don't worry about it. You never stop being a big brother; I know that better than anyone." Then, with a grin at me, "And Sam idolized you back then, you know? Never spoke about you normally, but get him drunk and all we'd hear was My Big Brother this and My Big Brother that."
Dean patted my shoulder. "Well, it's a twenty-four-seven job."
And then it started. Lucifer, sitting on the windowsill, the glass windowpane behind him frosting over with his proximity.
I ignored him, forcing myself to focus on Cathy's bright smile and listen to her telling me about the twins' first day of playschool.
But, come on, he's Lucifer, and, more pressingly, he's the Lucifer in my head, which means he knows even more about me than the real Lucifer does.
It wasn't long before he started to get to me.
It started out mild, just rolling his eyes and making faces as Cathy spoke, interjecting the occasional distasteful remark when she began to describe her initial meeting with the man who ran the playschool. Then it went on to sneering comments about Dean's knee bumping mine, and finally cracks about Jess.
It was when he started making threatening gestures in Dean's direction that I felt myself stiffen.
"No," I hissed under my breath.
But apparently it wasn't as much under my breath as I'd thought, because Cathy shot me a puzzled frown, while Dean's hand landed lightly on my leg.
"Easy, Sammy." I fumbled for my hand, squeezing, but Dean's fingers tightened sharply. "Don't. I'm right here." There was a brief pause, and then I heard him say, "Hey, you guys mind if I take him outside for a minute?"
"Sure," Kevin's voice came. "I'll come with you. Is he OK?"
"He'll be fine." Dean nudged my arm. "Let's go, Sam."
"He'll come too," I hissed, a whisper for Dean's ears alone.
"Then I'll kick his ass," Dean said calmly.
"Dean?" Lucifer sneered. "The undersized monkey is going to kick my ass? Oh, Sammy, big brother's getting delusional. Maybe you should tell him the kind of things I did to you. That might give him some perspective."
"Shut up," I muttered.
Dean heaved me to my feet and gave me a shove in the direction of the back stairs. "Outside, Sammy."
"What about the time with the salt and figs?" Lucifer asked, trailing after us down the stairs. "Should we tell him about that?" I shuddered. Dean's arm came around my shoulders. "Or maybe the incident with the Lucky Charms? I'm sure big brother would be very interested in hearing about that one."
I felt someone on the other side of me, a hand on my arm. I shivered and turned, expecting to see Lucifer.
It was Kevin.
"Right here, Sam," was all he said.
I felt sand under my feet when Dean finally announced that we were far enough. He shoved me down and dropped to his knees next to me, pulling me in close, muttering about how I was lucky he didn't just leave my girly ass there. (Dean! I'm telling this!) Let the record state that he would never have said that if he hadn't known that I would know he didn't mean it and he would always be there for me because that's what awesome big brothers do. (Even if they're jerks.)
"You know me, Sam," Dean murmured. "I'm your big brother. I'm always going to take care of you. You believe in that, don't you?"
"I'm not scared of Lucky Charms," I told Dean. "I'm not."
I heard a sound from Dean. I couldn't tell if it was a laugh or a sob. Then he was holding me tighter, and it was kind of uncomfortable because it was a hot day and the sun was blazing down, but I could hear his breathing and nothing else seemed to matter.
"What's wrong?" Kevin asked.
I heard Dean's response, the story we'd agreed on, involving the Marines and me having been a prisoner of war. It was as close as we dared come to the truth.
I settled down slowly, feeling inexpressibly grateful to Dean for being safe and warm and there.
A moment later, Kevin reached down, and between them they hauled me to my feet. I swayed and then found my balance – I was hallucinating, not hurt.
After the incident, I expected Kevin to send us on our way right after lunch – if I'd had a wife and children, I wouldn't have wanted a crazy freak anywhere around them. But to my surprise, he insisted on our sitting around after lunch and challenged Dean to some one-on-one basketball when the girls had been put down for their nap. ("I'm not even going to try to play a kid whose head is higher than the hoops. You interested, Dean?")
Even more astonishingly, Dean agreed.
Cathy and I sat on the sidelines and watched and chatted and sipped lemonade. It felt surreal: this was the life I'd thought I would have with Jess.
Dean and Kevin came off, laughing. I wasn't sure who'd won: I'd kind of zoned out in the last ten minutes. Dean nudged me and said, "What do you think? Not completely ashamed of me, are you, Sammy?"
His tone was light, but there was something tense in it. He wasn't just talking about basketball.
Dean knew about Jess, knew about the ring I'd been hoping to give her.
But Dean was here, with me, grinning down at me the way he did when he'd tried to impress me and was waiting for my reaction. He was here, and there was a time I'd believed I wouldn't even have that.
I could stop myself. I leaned forward and flung my arms around Dean.
He laughed. "Clingy kid," he told Kevin and Cathy. "Never know when he's going to get all emo on me. Total pain in the ass." But he sounded happy, and his hand was between my shoulder blades, holding me in place.
It was late afternoon by the time we left. The sun was dipping low over the water, and we walked back along the beach. I felt Dean wince as we passed the ruined sand castle, and I jostled his shoulder.
"It's OK, dude. I'll make another one."
Dean swatted at my arm. "After I went to all the trouble of getting rid of this one?"
"Don't be a jerk."
"Bitch," Dean said automatically. Then, "They were nice, Sammy."
"I… I'm sorry you couldn't have that. I know I don't always sound like it, but –"
"I was so proud of you when you went to Stanford, Sam. And I wanted you to be happy. I was just… scared… of what might happen when I wasn't there to watch out for you."
"So you told your friends about me, huh?"
"You know I did."
"I'll help you make a new sand castle tomorrow."
And standing there on the beach, with the sand between my toes and the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, with Dean next to me, still sweaty from the basketball game I knew he'd only played because he thought he ought to be friendly with Jessica's brother, life seemed as perfect as it could get.
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