Title: Brother's Blood
Authors: Diana Lucifera & Thaelia15
Pairing: Sam/Jess, future Wincest
Warnings: angst, mild gore, excessive brothertouching
Summary: When Dean goes missing on a hunt in New Orleans, John picks Sam up from Stanford to help look for him. (Pilot AU)
On the morning of October 22nd, Sam wakes up to the sound of someone pounding on his front door. He squints blearily at the alarm clock over Jess' bare shoulder and is able to make out 3:48 am in glowing green letters. For someone who was raised to be a hunter, a knock on the door at this time of night is already enough to make his hackles rise. He slips from between the sheets as quietly as possible and pads softly into the kitchen towards the door, pulling one of the butcher knives from the knife block just in case. The knocking hasn't let up since it woke him, though its sound is more demanding than panicked.
"Sam?" Jess' sleep-fogged voice comes from behind him. "What is it?"
"Shh," Sam tells her as gently as possible, but she spots the knife glinting in his hand and her eyes grow wide. So much for not freaking her out.
He hadn't been able to spot anyone through the window next to their front door, and before he can get a good look through the peephole, he hears a familiar voice from the other side.
"Sam!" the voice commands. "Open up, Sam!"
A strange feeling washes over him as one part of him relaxes while a whole different part tenses up. Setting his jaw, he unbolts the door and opens it only as far as the chain lock will allow.
If John Winchester is perturbed by Sam's less than welcoming tone, he doesn't show it. His expression is grim, firm but maybe a little soft around the edges, like he's trying for tender.
"Sammy. It's been a while."
Sam swallows down a burst of emotion, some confusing mixture of rage and resentment and love and fear, with an audible click.
"What do you want?" he asks, not bothering to mask the hostility.
"We need to talk."
"So talk," Sam shoots back, unmoving.
He can feel Jess behind him now, peering over his shoulder. Her fingers encircle his wrist significantly, and Sam realizes that he's still clutching the knife in a white-knuckled fist. He loosens his grip, and she takes it from him gently and sets it on the sill of the window. Sam isn't sure if he's grateful for her comforting presence at his back or terrified to have her within any sort of proximity to the patriarch of his profoundly fucked-up family. Her hand rests on his lower back, warm and supporting.
"Let me in, son," John says. "And I'll tell you all about it."
"No," Sam says. "Whatever it is you want, no."
"Sam," his father says meaningfully. "I need your help."
Sam clenches his teeth, shoots a puff of air out of his nose.
"I'm done helping you," he says. "I'm done with all of that."
Done with the hunting, done with the fighting, done with crappy hotel rooms and cheap diner food and credit card scams. Done with never making roots or friends. Done with never feeling normal or safe.
"Just leave me alone," he says and starts to close the door.
"It's about Dean," John says.
And Sam's blood runs cold.
He doesn't have to think about it, not even a little bit. He slams the door shut, tugs off the chain lock, and throws it open.
"Where is he?" he asks, because it hadn't even occurred to him until now that Dean might not be standing just out of sight behind Dad or downstairs running the Impala, that Dean might be hurt or even, God, no—
"I don't know," John says, pushing past Sam and Jess and into the apartment.
Sam hears blood rushing in his ears.
"What do you mean you don't know?" he demands, following John out of the entryway and back into the kitchen.
He hears Jess shut the door and then she's back at his side again, a thin line of concern between her brows. She shouldn't be here for this, shouldn't be around John at all, but Sam can't care about that right now.
John sighs and turns to face Sam.
"He was on a hunting trip down in Louisiana," he says significantly, cutting his eyes a little at Jess. "He's been out of contact for almost a week."
"You let him go hunting alone?" Sam demands, trying to process what John has just told him.
"Your brother's twenty-six years old, Sam," John says. He tugs open the fridge and pulls out a beer, twisting off the cap. "He doesn't need me to go with him on every hunting trip."
Sam strides across the kitchen and snatches the beer from his father's hand, slamming it down on the far counter.
"Except now he's missing!" he says accusingly. "What—?"
"Sam," John says firmly. "This conversation doesn't need an audience."
Sam follows his gaze to Jess, who's still standing on the other side of the room, arms crossed awkwardly over her thinly clothed chest, looking between them with wary eyes. She hasn't spoken since John showed up, Sam realizes, and thinks suddenly how bizarre this must all seem to her.
"I'm Sam's girlfriend," she says now. "I'm not going anywhere."
And Sam's grateful for her support. He really is, but—
"Maybe he's right, Jess," he says. "Could you give us a few minutes?"
Jess' lips form a thin line.
"Sam, can I talk to you for a second?"
Sam excuses himself to follow her into the bedroom, where she tugs on her robe and turns to fix him with concerned eyes.
"Sam, is it okay for him to be here?"
He doesn't blame her for asking. The personal history he'd given her had been accurate, but only the barest of bones: Dead mother, big brother he'd been close with until a few years ago, a controlling father with a drinking problem who'd moved them around a lot. He'd been so cagey about the rest of the details that, for all he knew, she thought his childhood had been some sort of abusive nightmare that he just wasn't ready to talk about.
"Yeah, it's okay, Jess. It's just—"
He sinks down on the bed, brushing a hand over his mouth. She sits beside him and curls a palm around the nape of his neck.
"You think your brother's really in trouble?" she asks. "I mean, a week isn't that long to go without calling, right?"
"You don't know Dean," Sam says. "If it were my dad, sure, a week would be nothing, but Dean? It's bad, Jess."
His voice cracks a little at the end. He hasn't spoken to Dean for almost two years, and yeah, the last time they'd talked, Sam had been pretty pissed, but Dean is still Dean, and the idea of something happening to him makes Sam sick in his gut.
"Okay," Jess says soothingly, squeezing his hand. "Okay, Sam. Why don't we both go back in there and find out all the details from your dad. If he hasn't called the cops already, I'll go with you right now, and we'll file a missing person report. They'll sort it out. It's going to be okay."
Her thigh is pressed tight against his, her fingers scratching lightly at the hair behind his ear, and for a single, crazy moment, he wants to tell her everything.
"I think he's right. Maybe it's better if you're not involved in this," he says instead, avoiding her eyes.
Jess opens her mouth to protest.
"I just. I don't want you mixed up in my family crap," Sam tells her. "You know?"
"Sam," she says warningly.
"Please, Jess," Sam implores. "Just, let me deal with this."
She wants to fight him, he knows, but he's not in a relationship with Jess because she's the sort of person who clings and pries and wants to know every detail. He remembers the first time they'd ever really talked, out on the balcony at some party, halfway to buzzed, and she'd told him about her dad's own drinking problem.
"It wasn't all bad," she'd said. "I had a good childhood. But something like that, you can't really talk to anyone about it, you know? It's like you're keeping this big secret from the world. Like there's this whole part of you that you can't share with anyone."
And Sam had thought, God, yes, I know.
Jess understands that part of him. Jess gets that Sam can't be an open book, so even if it frustrates her, she brings her hand down from his neck and says: "Okay, Sam."
She leans in, kisses him lightly at the corner of his mouth, gives his hand one final squeeze.
"Just let me know if you need me, all right?"
Jess trusts Sam, she reflects, as she watches the boyfriend in question snag a dull, faded black duffle bag from underneath their bed and start throwing clothes in it.
Really, she does trust him. If he wants to take care of this on his own, he can, and will, but this is Sam. Sweet, dorky, awkward, gorgeous Sam, the boy she took one look at, leaning against the patio railing outside a no-name house party, hands stuffed in his pockets and hunched as if he were trying to make himself smaller, practically apologizing for taking up so much space, waiting for someone to come over and show him how this whole 'having fun' thing worked.
He can take care of this on his own, but he shouldn't have to.
And now, like then, Jess steps in to help the sweet, too-tall bookworm she loves get through this. He'll find his brother. She know this in the same way she knows her shoe size, or her address, or the way Sam's hair looks in the morning, tousled and downy, going every which way as the sun spikes it with caramel and gold.
He'll find Dean, then come back to her. In the meantime, there's work to do.
She picks up a legal pad from the jettisoned contents of Sam's backpack.
"Give me your SUNet ID and password," she prompts, swiftly replacing the hoodie and jeans in his hands with pen and paper, folding the clothes as she keeps talking. "I can run interference for you with your professors and keep tabs on your law school applications while you're out looking for your brother."
"Jess," Sam starts, looking a little dumbfounded, and still holding the legal pad and pen without actually making a move to use them.
"If this thing takes more than a couple weeks, I can buy you time with the Stanford interview, talk to your professors, all that." Jess supplies, still folding and packing the clothes Sam had jerked from their drawers and placed haphazardly on the bed next to his bags. "Any longer than that and we might run into some issues, but I can keep them on their toes, especially if you have the police department send me a copy of the missing persons report."
"Jess," Sam breathes, gratitude and worry and terror all welling up in his stupidly expressive eyes, and before Jess can hold him and tell him it'll be alright, before she can try and comfort him, take away the hurt in any way she knows how, they're interrupted.
"Son, we're on a timeline here!" John booms impatiently, pounding abruptly on the door.
Sam's lips thin and a muscle tics in his cheek as he rolls his eyes.
"Can you let him in before he kicks in the door?" he asks Jess, turning back to the bed to stuff a few lingering essentials in the duffle.
"Anything I can do to help," she smiles wryly as she turns and misses Sam stuffing a pistol from behind the headboard into his backpack.
It burns at Sam that even after four years at Stanford, four years of the most apple pie-normal life a person could want, four years away from his dad and hunting and training and killing, he still can be packed and on the road in ten minutes or less. He can still shrink his life to a couple of bags in the back of a car, staring down two lane asphalt with guns in the trunk and a wrinkled map in his lap, like nothing ever changed.
Like he never left.
Except the Impala is a truck now, a black, four wheel drive behemoth that, if Dean weren't missing, Sam would snark about being his dad's way of compensating for something. He hates how their elbows can't help but touch in the narrow cab, how his legs actually have room to almost unfold in the floor well. How a jealous spike of ooh-pretty-want hit him hard when Dad unlatched the tailgate to reveal the arsenal in the bed, oiled and organized to lethal perfection.
Most of all he hates how even if they find Dean, he'll never fit in here with them.
So now the Impala is a truck and instead of Sam in the back, playing army men or doing his calculus homework, he's in the front, scouring maps and timelines not for monsters or ghosts or ghouls, but for Dean.
Dean, who could have been kidnapped, who could by lying somewhere beaten and bloody, who could be—
He can't force himself to talk about it with Dad for the first couple hours. He can only sit and watch the mile markers tick by, remembering every reason he left this life and hating John Winchester for sending Dean out into it alone.
Luckily for Sam's boiling rage, John's new truck is a gas guzzler.
John expects the anger. He expects the resentment, left simmering for four years and still hot as the day he told his youngest to leave and never come back. He expects the door slammed in his face and the bitter contempt at the very idea of hunting, just as he expected that it would all cease to matter the second Sammy heard that Dean was missing.
Missing. Not gone, because if there is a twenty-six year old on the planet that can survive the things that go bump in the night alone for a week, it's his eldest, who's twice as cocky as John was at that age and easily three times as lethal.
He expected everything he got from Sam in Palo Alto. The right hook he gets from Sammy at a fill-up two hours into the journey, however, is something of a surprise.
Probably didn't want his girl to see him beating up on the old man, John reflects as he blocks a respectable jab from Sam, only to have the wind knocked out of him by a merciless elbow to the ribs, the elbow in question every bit as razor sharp as it had been when he was fifteen and growing every which way but muscle, all big feet and lanky limbs and bitter sarcasm. Probably waited this long to start throwing punches because Sammy knew John would expect violence for the first hour at least. The fill-up station was considerate. They didn't waste time they could be driving fighting, and if one gets knocked out, the other can drive.
Good to know some things didn't change.
"Alright Sammy, that's enough," John announces, catching his youngest in a headlock when he notices the gas station clerk getting a little too interested in their tussle.
"A week!" Sam spits, still swinging furiously, getting in a few decent blows on John's kidney, "Nothing from Dean for a week and you don't do anything about it?" he demands, using his body weight to slam John hard against the side of the truck, "Dean, who has picked up the phone for you during gunfights, maulings, and sex! Dean, who obeys every stupid, suicidal order you give? For all you know, he could be dead right now, and it's your fault, because you couldn't get off the job or out of the bottle long enough to fucking look for him!"
Not because it's true, at least not exactly. John knows he had his reasons, good reasons, just like he has reasons for everything he does. Of course, he'd been worried about Dean. Hell, the fact that Dean had gone out of contact was the only reason John had stuck around to finish that job in Jericho, just like it's the only reason he's spending thirty some-odd hours driving cross country with his angry, willful youngest instead of chasing leads in the opposite damn direction. But Sam's never exactly been one to give John the benefit of the doubt, and John's never been one to explain himself.
It's a big part of why he and Sam drive each other so crazy.
John has Sam pinned face-first against the cab, long arms pulled tight behind his back, before Sam can spit his next insult. The truck rocks a little under the blow, and John knows he used more force than was strictly necessary. Hopes the clerk doesn't take it as a sign that they're escalating.
"All right, Sammy," he says in a low voice. "You've said your piece, now get back in the truck and cool off."
"No!" Sam spits out, face all crammed up against the window.
He struggles against the hold, but John's got experience and muscle on him and Sam's about four years out of practice.
"I said get in the truck, Sam," John grits out, digging his fingers in.
"And I said NO!"
Sam's really getting loud now, bucking harder against John's hold, and John's forced to let him go when another car pulls into the fill station. They don't need this kind of attention. Sam's knows better than to try to get another hit in on John, though, just draws himself up and lets out an angry huff through his nose. There's an angry red mark on his cheekbone.
"I don't get you," Sam says lowly. "How can you just act like it doesn't mean anything to you? How the hell could you wait a week to go looking? Do you just not care?!"
No one can push John's buttons like Sam.
"I'm acting like I don't care?" he says in voice like steel. "I haven't talked to Dean in a week. When's the last time you talked to him?"
Sam draws back; his eyes go wide, then narrow.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that I'm not the one who walked out on Dean," John says. "If you'd stuck around instead of being so damn selfish, maybe Dean wouldn't have had to go on that case by himself!"
Sam's nostril's flare, the way John knows they do when Sam's about to lose his mind.
"Don't you put this on me," he snarls, and then, amping up the volume: "Don't you DARE try to put this on me! You just don't want to admit that you screwed up! You did this, Dad! Not me!"
John's feels that familiar rush of rage rush through him, speeding up his pulse, making his head go a little fuzzy. He's been doing this dance with Sam since he was a teenager, and he knows that, without Dean there to step between them, they're about five seconds away from full-on punching each other's lights out, civilians or no.
The gas pump gives a loud click, signaling that the tank is full, and it's like the bell on a boxing match. Sam glares at him for a moment longer and then turns without a word, wrenches open the door to the truck, and then slams it shut behind him. John knows what it means. This argument isn't over, but Sam isn't going to waste any time on John that he could be spending on Dean.
John gets that. They owe Dean that much.
At least that much.
He gets in, slams his own door shut, and angles the truck back toward the highway.