Title: Oddest Things
Pairing(s): Lucifer/Sam Winchester
Genre(s): Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, He Broke the Old One, So We All Chipped in and Got Him a New One, He(ll)(aven) is a Place on Earth
Summary: Helen Forrest drifts softly out of the CD player on the windowsill, murmuring, "In a dream the strangest and the oddest things appear… and what insane and silly things we do—"
Nick has a weakness for old love songs. He's not picky about the era, could be just as happy with Bobby Darin or Geoffery O'Hara, but he likes the sad sweetness of them, the patient, abiding faithfulness. Call him a sap if you like. Sam does, hunched over the credenza in their tiny shared office, flipping through his music collection with increasingly obvious frustration. Helen Forrest drifts softly out of the CD player on the windowsill, murmuring, "In a dream the strangest and the oddest things appear… and what insane and silly things we do—"
"You're just as bad as Dean," Sam says, pulling out a greatest hits collection to examine the cover. "Do you have anything in here recorded after 1959?"
"I'm sure you would have found it before now," Nick counters, circling another declination error on the exam he's grading. Really, after four semesters his students should remember that deus has an irregular plural.
"Here is what I see before me, vividly and clear; as I recall it, you were in it, too," Helen whispers dreamily.
"I bringing in my own music," Sam threatens, and Nick sighs and stretches back in his chair, pulling off his reading glasses to rub at tired eyes.
"What's the rule, Sam?"
"I had the craziest dream last night, yes, I did. I never dreamt it could be."
Sam echoes Nick's sigh with his own, exasperated, leaning back against the credenza and folding his arms. Weak sunlight spills warm over his shoulders from the tall, narrow windows. "Tenured professor picks the music, PhD student shuts his cakehole?"
Sam sounds so disgruntled that Nick has to smile, the beginnings of a tension headache notwithstanding. "Something like that."
"Yet, there you were in love with me!" Helen sighs.
This argument is a groove worn as deep as those on the vinyl records Nick prefers, comfortable and comforting. Sam rolls his eyes, pushes away from the CDs and goes to slump resentfully down in the chair opposite Nick's, long legs stretching out into the middle of the room. They're a fire hazard, really.
"I'm bringing in my iPod dock," he threatens.
"Only if you want it to turn up in pieces," Nick says absently, sliding his glasses back on.
Sam doesn't say anything for a moment, and Nick moves on to the translation section of the exam. Atrocious, as expected.
"Not all change is bad, you know."
There's a curious seriousness to the statement, and Nick glances up with a slight frown.
"Change." Sam's looking at him, chin braced on his hand. "It's not a bad thing."
Nick lifts an eyebrow. "Generally, no."
"I'm just saying." Sam waves his other hand. "New things can be good, too."
Nick goes back to marking errors. "I'm not afraid of change, Sam. I am simply content with what I have."
Sam's still watching him. Nick can feel his gaze like the stripe of heat the sun slants across his arm through the Venetian blinds. "Yeah," he says finally. "Okay."
This, too, is an old argument, one with well-creased corners and dialogue the two of them could recite by rote. And do.
"Just checking, I guess," Sam says, and that's not precisely standard, but then he opens his laptop and pulls a pair of headphones out of a pocket, and the conversation is over.
They work in silence for the next several minutes, Nick making steady progress through the stack of exams at his elbow while Sam works on the computer, sharp clacks of the keyboard periodically breaking the quiet. Somewhere in the building a bell rings, and in the hallway outside their closed door the sound of footsteps and voices swells to a dull roar. Nick checks his watch, then looks up at Sam.
"I might head out to lunch. Care to join me?"
Sam glances up. "Hmm?"
Nick sighs, reaches over their desks to tug one of his earbuds out. "Lunch?"
Sam looks down at his phone, set crooked on wood beside his elbow. "Oh, man, it's already one. Go without me? I've got to get this stuff done."
"Surely it can wait an hour," Nick says, a little peevishly.
Sam smiles. "Sorry. Bring me back some coffee?"
"I didn't say I was going to the café."
Sam snorts, eyes already back on his screen. "Where else do you go?"
Nick frowns at him, but it's true enough. "Fine. I'll be back before two."
"Got it," Sam says, beginning to type again. "And I want one of those apricot things, too."
Nick wrinkles his nose. "You'll get what I buy and like it."
"Deal," Sam says, and laughs at Nick's resigned expression.
When Nick steps out into the corridor, coat draped over his arm, the hallway is once again quiet and empty. As he passes classrooms he catches bits and pieces of other lectures, art and history and one professor berating her students for dismal performance on a test. As he will be, come four o'clock and his Intermediate Latin lecture.
He's humming the Helen Forrest song under his breath as he trots down the stairs, and nearly bowls over a student as they rush up the landing.
"Oh, professor!" the young man says breathlessly, tipping back alarmingly. "Hello!"
"Alfie," Nick recalls, hand on his shoulder to keep him from falling backwards. "Late again?"
"Only a few minutes," Alfie says, smiling up at him. "You were singing."
"I… humming, yes," Nick says.
"It's just been such a long time since I heard you sing," Alfie says in a rush, still smiling, and there's something close to adoration in his eyes. No stranger to student crushes, Nick smiles and gently pushes him aside.
"You'd better get going," he says. "Don't want to be too late, do you?"
"Yes—I mean, no," the boy agrees without moving, and Nick smiles and ruffles his hair before continuing down the stairs.
The café is down by the water, nestled in that part of town where the historical society militantly guards the gas lightposts and hundred-year-old cobblestones. The knobby roots of old oaks twist through the bricks to trip the unwary, and wisteria drips down in long purple sheets that flank the streets.
Nick has a favorite table at the edge of the covered veranda where he can sit and watch the river roll lazily by. He's barely pulled out the chair before a member of the waitstaff is setting a folded newspaper and piping-hot Americano on the glass tabletop.
"Thank you," he says politely, and the man beams.
"Friend here, I go get," he says in heavily accented English, and before Nick can ask what he means he sees a woman exiting the café's side door, glancing left and right before her eyes settle on him with a wide red grin.
"Hey, Daddy," she says when she's in earshot. "How's it shaking?"
"I really wish you'd stop this," Nick says, determinedly unfolding his paper.
"You can't blame me for being worried about you," she says, dropping into the seat next to him. She keeps her back to the river, he's noticed, and a constant watch on the street. "Drinking chocolate," she tells the hovering waiter. "And the beignets, heavy on the powdered sugar."
"You'll get diabetes," he says, shaking out the front page.
"If I do, it'll be the most interesting thing to happen in months," she says disgustedly. "This place is so unbelievably boring."
"On the contrary. Just this morning I saw two bluejays."
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph," she says, completely monotone. "That is amazing."
Over the edge of his paper, he gives her an arch look. "Isn't it, though?"
"Let's talk about war," she suggests, tapping a finger to a story below the fold about Syrian refugees. "Famine. Pestilence."
"It was completely out of season. They're winter birds, you know."
"Wouldn't you rather be doing something else?" she tries. "Isn't there something missing in your life? Some higher purpose?"
"I wonder if global warming has anything to do with it."
"Ugh," she says, heartfelt, and accepts her chocolate and fried dough with an air of sullenness.
"When was the last time you even left the city?" she tries, halfway through her greasy plateful. Nick's cup is almost empty, and almost as soon as he notices, a new one appears at the edge of the table and the old is whisked away.
"Why would I leave? I like it here," Nick says, a little distracted; he's reading an editorial about IRS overspending, and it makes a compelling argument.
"You're an old man, Dad," she accuses, powdered sugar dusting her chin. "I'll bet you flyfish and wear socks with sandals."
"The fishing around here is actually quite good."
"You're an embarrassment."
Nick glances up. "To whom, pray tell?"
The woman snorts, and flickers. Her sweet, heart-shaped face stutters like a slow projector, laughing mouth stretched over something monstrous.
It's not the first time he's seen it, and when she lays her hand over his he doesn't flinch away.
"You do seem disgustingly happy," she allows, her voice softer now. "I just worry about you, stuck in here."
"I'm not stuck."
"Of course you aren't," she huffs. "Anyway, you got yourself a hell of a consolation prize. You should at least enjoy it."
"What do you mean?"
"Are you being deliberately dense?" she says, sitting back and slurping at her cooling chocolate. "Tap that ass."
Nick stares at her. "I beg your pardon?"
"Fuck him," she enunciates, popping the last beignet in her mouth. "He'd totally let you," she continues, a little more muffled. "He's such a complete sap. By this point, he probably even feels guilty about all this."
"Who? About what?" Nick says, irritated, but she stands and dusts off her fingers, leaning in to give him a quick kiss on the cheek before grabbing her purse.
"They're gonna find me if I stay in much longer. See you soon, Daddy!"
"I'm not your 'daddy'," he says automatically, but she throws him a careless little wave and jumps over the iron railing into the street, vanishing around a corner in seconds.
Nick takes the long way back to the university, along the river where the trees dip into the cool green water and ducks sleep on the grassy banks, basking in the intermittent afternoon sun.
It's a beautiful day, and he catches himself humming again, something tuneless and cheerful as he crosses the almost empty campus green and into the Classics building, taking the steps a few at a time. He has a small white bag in his hand filled with petit fours and clafouti in delicate lace-paper wrappers.
Their door is propped open when he comes to it, and Nick pauses just outside, leaning on the frame and looking in.
Sam's hunched posture is probably painful, as is the squint he's aiming at the computer screen. The pen in his fingers is caught idly between his teeth and his hair tumbles forward into his eyes, hiding most of his face.
The same CD is still playing, Helen's strong vibrato rising above the sob of violins. "I found your lips close to mine so I kissed you, and you didn't mind it at all… when I'm awake such a break never happens! How long can a gal go on dreaming?"
"Sam," Nick says, and Sam jerks up with a small yip of sound that makes Nick smile, even as Sam glares at him.
"Don't scare me like that," he says, hand cupping the back of his neck as he rolls his head back. "Ouch."
"Your posture is horrendous," Nick says, stepping forward, and Sam's eyes light up when he sees the takeaway bag.
"Gimme," he demands, reaching for it. "The stuff I've been doing is all your work, anyway, I deserve it."
Nick pretends to think about that, holding the bag just out of reach. "On one condition."
"Not TA-ing for you," Sam says instantly. "Never again."
"Go out to dinner with me," Nick says, and Sam blinks, and stares. Keeps staring, long enough that Nick sets the bag down and rests a hip against the edge of the desk, looking down at him.
"Sam," he says, deliberately, "would you like to go out to dinner with me?"
"If there's a chance that you care, then please, say you do. Say it and make my craziest dream come true!"
"Uh," Sam says. "Um. Sure! Sure. I'll just—Dean and I were going to meet up, let me call him?"
"Absolutely," Nick says, barely resisting the urge to add 'Good boy,' and nudges the bag forward.
Sam's still giving him a strange look, caught halfway between confusion and suspicion, but he takes it.
Later, when they're walking out the building at dusk, Sam half turns to him.
"Do you want to go to the café, then?"
"Surprise me," Nick decides, and Sam barks a laugh at the pale yellow moon.