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SPN_J2_BIGBANG: "The Taming of the You-Know-Who" (pre-series gen AU; PG-13)
dean says annyong to his hermano
innie_darling


Hi, everybody!

Here's my fic for this year's spn_j2_bigbang, a very cool challenge indeed. It's pre-series (Sam is 14, Dean is 18). I'm calling it gen because it's mostly about the Winchesters, though there is (offscreen) Dean/OFCs action; rated PG-13. It clocks in at 24,801 words. Sam POV. Spoilers for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Anne of Green Gables. Seriously.

Summary: Minor AU. Dean talks John into staying put for all of Sam's freshman year of high school, and Sam is thrilled that he can make friends and have them over, that he can act like any other kid his age. But when Sam develops a crush on a girl, John lays down the law - Sam can't have a girlfriend until Dean settles down with just one girl too - and that means Sam won't rest until he's come up with the perfect plot.

For iyalode, who wanted to see happy Dean. (WARNING: the whole damn fic is happy!)

So, without further ado, here's THE TAMING OF THE YOU-KNOW-WHO.




It's hot and a little sticky outside, but Sam's down in the cool grass, stretched out on his stomach, escaping the worst of the weather. He's got nowhere he has to be and no real deadline for the work in front of him because Dad's gone until who knows when. What started out as a full roll of grape Bubble Tape is lying on the grass next to his elbow. All the bits he's chewed out of flavor and into jaw-threatening elasticity are stuck in hard little nuggets to the inside of the lid. When he unspools the tightly curled end, it looks like there's only about a foot left. He flips open his knife, the knife that Dean let him swipe from him a couple of months ago for not sassing back to Dad for a whole week, and cuts the remainder of the gum into one-inch pieces, stacking them for easy access.

He pops a couple of wrinkly little squares into his mouth, working it up to get to a good bubble-blowing texture. The other pieces are a weird dusty purple that looks like the skin of a drunk elephant when he squints his eyes and tilts his head just right. Ew. Elephant skin.

Tossing aside his pencil, he watches it goes a little further than he meant it to. It's too nice a day to worry about Latin, and anyway he's not the one who Dad trusts to go on hunts, so what does it matter if he knows the exorcisms backwards and forwards or not?

He picks up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone instead. Mr. Russo at the library had said that this was the first children's book he'd enjoyed as an adult, and that there was a lot more going on in the book than the dolts on the school board could see. That had been good enough for Sam to check it out; Mr. Russo hasn't been wrong once, in the two and a half months they've lived in New Brighton.

The plastic wrapping crinkles as he sets the book in front of him and rests it against a rock. He props himself up on his elbows, ignores the weird babyish drawing of a guy on a broomstick on the cover, and opens the book to page one.

Fifteen pages later, he wants to throw the book as far away as he can. What the hell? Why would Mr. Russo give him, of all people, a book about a boy who lived through an attack that killed his parents? Doesn't Mr. Russo know?

Sam can't swallow past the knot in his throat. Dean's been keeping a pitcher of something cold in the fridge since the temperature hit eighty a few weeks ago and just kept climbing. Whatever it is today, a glass of it can only help. Sam gathers up his Latin text, his pencil, the stupid Harry Potter book, and the rest of the Bubble Tape. He spits the wad in his mouth out on the grass, wipes his sweaty forehead, and heads back to the house.

When he gets closer to the back door, he can hear Dean talking to someone. A few seconds later, he realizes it's the tone of voice Dean only uses when speaking to Dad - respectful and stubborn and quiet all at once. Shoot. He must have been really out of it if he didn't hear the familiar loud roar of the car coming down the street; maybe he was a little more caught up in Harry Potter's life than he realized. Good thing Dad's too busy arguing with Dean to pay any attention to him, because that little trick would mean an extra hour or two of training every morning for at least another week or so.

"Dad," Dean's saying, all careful and determined, "I think that this makes a lot of sense."

There's a weird clicking sound behind his words, like he's on a bugged phone line or something; it takes Sam a minute to get past the X-Files memories and figure out that it's just the sound of Dean handling the guns, taking them apart piece by piece carefully, like it's a fine art or something, cleaning each one, and then fitting them precisely back together.

"That's for me to decide, Dean," Dad says. Sam rolls his eyes. Why can't Dad let anything slide, even just once? It's not like Dean is going to go mad with power and lead a rebellion against him. Not Dean.

"Sammy starts high school in a couple of weeks," Dean points out.

Sam waits for Dad to snap back You think I don't know that?, but the retort doesn't come. Guess Dad forgot how old he was . . . again. Not like he was around for either of their birthdays this year anyway.

"It'll be good to stay in one place for the whole school year," Dean says quickly. "Sam will be happy with a year, Dad, you know it."

"You know that's not true," Dad says, sounding tired. Sam curls his fingers around the window sill, wishing he could peek inside, just to see if Dad is standing or slumped in a chair, if Dean is pretending to be totally absorbed in the weapons around him or if he's looking Dad right in the eye.

This time, Dean just flat-out ignores Dad. "I was thinking South Dakota. You could spend the time going through Bobby's library."

"Yeah? And who do you think is going to put food on the table? Or do you think Sammy'll be so thrilled that he'll offer to stop putting food away like it's going out of style?"

"Me," Dean says firmly, ignoring the second question and answering the first. "I'm eighteen now, and I can take care of that stuff. You've got better things to do than work the night shift at some shithouse for less than minimum wage."

There's a long silence after Dean offers his deal. Sam can feel his throat getting dryer by the second. Stupid Bubble Tape.

"You talked to Bobby about this yet?" Dad finally asks.

"No, sir." As if. Has Dad even met Dean?

"Maybe I'll give him a call later," Dad says, like he's making a huge concession.

"Sure," Dean says, clearly backing off. Dean always does that, and Sam can't figure out why he lets his ideas go like they're worth nothing, even the really good ones. "Dinner will be ready soon anyway."

Sam waits until he hears Dad shuffling out of the kitchen before pulling open the screen door. Dean's standing with one hip pressed against the counter and looking right at him. "I guess you heard we're moving, squirt," Dean says, then turns to the fridge and pulls out the orange plastic pitcher. It looks like it's about half full.

Sam grins, takes the cup Dean hands him, and gulps the sugary lemonade. It's too hot to stay in the kitchen while Dean cooks, so he takes his book and goes back outside to read a little more. He's just trying to figure out who the letters Harry keeps getting could possibly be from and how they could have been put inside the eggs - gross, they'd be covered in yolk and stuff - when he hears Dean yelling for him to come and eat.

Dinner is omelets, and that just figures, but Sam doesn't want to spoil the quiet by griping. Sam would bet anything that Dad's already talked to Bobby, from the way his mouth is turned down in a frown and Dean jumps even more than usual to do whatever Dad asks.

Later, when he's sitting up in bed, it hits him. Neither Dad nor Dean said anything about hunting.

He crosses his fingers, looks up at the ceiling, and whispers, "Please, no more hunting." But that's too much to hope for, so he tacks on an addendum, wondering if maybe this more realistic prayer might get answered: at least for this year. He goes to sleep happier than he can remember being for months.




"Dean," Dad calls from his room, and Dean abandons his breakfast without a second thought. Sam stays at the table, book open next to his empty cereal bowl, and bets himself a new roll of Bubble Tape that Dean will end up eating soggy Cap'n Crunch.

He only gets through a page and a half, though, by the time Dean gets back. Dean slurps his soupy cereal and grins at him like that's not the most disgusting thing ever.

"I'm gonna drive out to the Triple A office and pick up some new maps. Wanna come?" Dean says this with a straight face, like it could be a real treat.

"Nah. I want to finish this book before we move."

Dean doesn't respond to that, just tips the bowl against his mouth to get the last of the milk, and Sam has a moment of unease. "Dean, we are going, right?"

"Yeah," Dean says, gathering both the bowls and taking them to the sink. "We are."

But Sam's accustomed enough to Dad's high-handed way of making and taking back decisions to put off packing his stuff until Dean gives him the go-ahead. It's another gorgeous day; Sam figures he might as well get some fresh air while he reads.

*

"Oh, they have got to be kidding!" Dean says, laughing at the map of South Dakota he's got spread out over the kitchen table. There's a sweat stain that looks like an inkblot dampening his thin t-shirt, broad across his shoulder blades and tapering down to a narrow line along his spine. It's vaguely like a Georgia O'Keeffe painting of an animal skull, Sam thinks, remembering another book Mr. Russo had set aside for him.

"What?" Sam's perched on the counter; even plastic masquerading as marble is cooler against his legs than the thick, unmoving air in the house. "What's so funny?"

"Look at the names of these towns." Dean pulls him down and drapes one heavy arm easily across Sam's shoulders. Sam wonders sometimes if Dean realizes just how strong he really is.

Sam looks down too and reads out loud whenever he finds a good one. "Mud Butte?" Dean laughs, and Sam feels himself grinning in response. "Mound City?"

"That one sounds kind of dirty," Dean says. "I approve."

"Red Shirt," Sam continues disbelievingly, Dean's hand hot against his hunched back.

"Population zero," Dean says in a mournful whisper, warm mouth right next to the sweaty hair curling near Sam's ear. "Very sad. The good citizens of the town kept dying."

"I can't believe you think I'm a geek," Sam complains, wincing when Dean just gives him an enthusiastic, sweaty-smelling noogie. "Oh, look, here's one you could be the mayor of: Letcher."

"And here's one where they wouldn't let you past the city limits, squirt: Winner."

"Ha ha ha." He looks at Dean speculatively, but Dean's attention stays fixed on the map; Sam can see his eyes tracing driving routes to Uncle Bobby's place already. "Man, South Dakota is weird."

"Yeah, well, South Dakota's gonna be home sweet home in a week or two, Sammy, so brace yourself."

He knows that Dean's latest deal with Dad is mostly to help him; it doesn't matter to Dean where they live, as long as the girls are pretty and willing, and Dean's found plenty of them in even the smallest, most uptight towns. But he also knows that Dean will act confused if he says thanks, no matter how much he means it, so he just rolls his eyes and says, "Yeah. I can't wait," and grins when Dean snorts.




Being in the back seat of the car for this many hours on end totally and completely sucks. So what if he's the shortest? He should still get to sit up front for a couple of hours at least, maybe stretch his legs and even have some say in how loud the radio gets. But Dad's claimed the passenger seat since his sprained wrists won't let him drive, and it doesn't look like he's going to be abdicating that throne anytime soon.

It's weird to not have to rush; Dean isn't flooring it and relying on the radar detector he rigged up to alert him to the presence of any pesky cops. And it's maybe even weirder not to have a case to discuss. Sam's used to Dad and Dean having long, cryptic, bloodthirsty conversations about whatever they're after and how to get away even cleaner this time, but now there's no hunt on the horizon, so Dad is trying to make normal, everyday small talk. With him. It's so weird.

"You excited to start high school, Sammy?" Dad asks, and for a moment Sam just wants to wrap his arms around his father, despite the heat and even with the car's hot, sticky seat in the way, because Dad sounds like a befuddled TV dad, trying but not quite succeeding at connecting with his teenage kid.

"Yeah, sure, Dad," he says, and he can feel the dumb grin stretching his mouth. In the rearview mirror, he can see Dean's eyes light up. "I wonder if I'll be behind or ahead this time," he says, not even meaning it as a complaint.

Dad kind of half-turns, stiff and a little awkward; it's past time to find a rest stop. "If you're behind, it won't be for very long. You're too smart for that."

Dean makes a weird sound then, and Sam knows it's just surprise, and happiness, at how well they're getting along, but of course Dad can't let that slide, because you never know when your life will depend on your ability to stay totally silent. According to The Gospel of John Winchester, anyway. "What was that?" Dad asks, all sharp, smug just waiting in the wings.

Dean blinks once and then points up through the windshield and says, "I was just admiring those clouds. The ones shaped just like a really great rack."

And that's enough to get Dad laughing and elbowing Dean like they're best buddies again, because Dad also always says that thinking on your feet can save your life.

Dean comes from behind to win it. Sam sits back and pulls out the travel chess game that Uncle Bobby gave him years ago. It's hard to play against himself - he keeps losing track of whose turn it is, and rotating the tiny board is only giving him a headache. After a few miles, he gives up and looks out the window for as long as the daylight lets him.

*

There has to be a limit on how many cheeseburgers Dad and Dean can stuff into themselves in just one sitting on their cross-country trip. Sam stirs his dumpy little cup of chili and watches them eat; he's willing to swear at one point that Dad can unhinge his jaw like a snake trying to get a piglet into its belly.

It's unfair that they can eat like that and still be in shape, ready and eager to run and hunt and kill. Meanwhile, he's stuck with pounds he packed on just by eating the same food as them, weight that doesn't drop off even though he trains every single day.

Dad and Dean don't look like they're going to be slowing down anytime soon. He scrapes his plastic spoon along the bottom of the cardboard cup, still hungry. Dean looks up from his fries and holds out a burger still in its shiny, grease-stained wrapper and pushes the tray over just enough so that Sam can snag some fries. Sam says thanks with a nod, then makes a face when he has to pick all the stinky extra onions off Dean's burger and drop them in the empty cup before taking that first satisfying bite.




Looking through the cloudy windshield from the back seat, all that Sam can really see is that Uncle Bobby's wearing a different grubby baseball cap. Not that he can imagine Uncle Bobby playing baseball.

The old one was a beat-up blue, like worn-down jeans, and the brim had that perfect curl that the jocks always had on their brand-new caps. This one is forest green with some motor oil logo on it, and the brim is flatter. Other than that, Uncle Bobby looks exactly the same. His hair, visible through the mesh of his cap, is still that brownish grey, same as his beard. And he's still got enough of a belly to prop a book on when he's kicking back and reading. Maybe there's a little more belly than last time.

Sam scrambles out of the car when he sees what else is new. There's a new dog keeping Uncle Bobby company these days, and it's barking excitedly and scampering at the sight of new people; it's a Rottweiler that looks like it's not even a year old yet. "Hey, boy," Sam says, holding his hand out for a sniff and then a vigorous licking.

The puppy trots off to the patch of grass behind the house, turning to make sure Sam is following along and willing to play. After about ten minutes of throwing a stick, Sam's arm starts to ache, so he finally drops it and just rubs the pup down, loving the happy little growls he can feel under his hands. He leads the way back to the front of the house and settles in on the front porch with the puppy's head heavy in his lap.

The front door swings open abruptly and from behind him, Dean says, "Thanks, Bobby. We should probably get settled in before we start bugging you."

Dad can't shake hands really, not with his wrists all bandaged up and splinted, but he does nod in kind of a friendly way to Uncle Bobby. Sam doesn't think it's the bright sunshine playing tricks on his eyes that makes it look like Uncle Bobby's already regretting this a little.

Sam rolls his eyes. Dad pretty much needs a keeper to make sure he doesn't say anything that'll get him tossed out of yet another house, and Dean, of course, has decided that he's going to be it.

"Let's hustle, Sammy," Dean calls, getting into the car. "You and me are going to get the new place shining."

*

One fist pounding his other palm, Sam plays rock, crushing Dean's stupid inevitable scissors decisively, and Dean heaves a sigh and trudges to the kitchen with the bucket of cleaning supplies.

All Sam has to do is air out the two hot, dusty bedrooms in the back, dust and sweep them, and put sheets on all three of the beds. He takes his time on Dad's, doing hospital corners; Dad won't think of it as his way of saying thank you, but anything less would be taken as a sign of insubordination. He dumps Dad's duffels at the foot of the bed, knowing better than to try to unpack anything for him.

Back in the room he's sharing with Dean, Sam throws the remaining bags on one of the twin beds and starts sorting his clothes from Dean's. There's a big, chipped wooden dresser along one wall with more than enough room in there for all of their stuff. He finds himself humming Black Sabbath as he folds clothes, and that's just got to be a sign for him to get out of there.

He wanders back to the front of the house. Dad's sitting at the kitchen table, a mug of coffee in front of him and a thick newspaper next to his elbow. Dean's scrubbing out the refrigerator.

"Hey," Sam says. "Can I go look around?"

Dad doesn't say anything, but Dean says, "Give me twenty more minutes and I'll take you somewhere awesome," like he already knows all the ins and outs of this stupidly named town.

"Yeah, okay." Sam flops down on the couch and picks at a threadbare patch on one of the cushions.

*

"You seriously need to re-evaluate your definition of awesome, Dean," Sam says. "Because government agencies are never it."

"Trust me, punk," Dean says around a grin, leading the way up to the glass doors. He still smells faintly of Lysol and bleach.

"We need an application for a Restricted Minor's Permit, please," Dean informs the bored-looking clerk behind the counter. She perks right up when she gets an eyeful of Dean, and Sam's not quite sure how it happens, but both the application and the written exam are in his hands immediately. He's not prepared at all, because he had no idea that he was old enough for even a permit, but the test doesn't seem that hard. Score one for South Dakota.

The moment he puts his pen down, the clerk whisks him behind the counter for the vision check. She's nodding frantically but barely listening to his answers as he recites each dwindling line of letters and numbers on the chart, and she gives his written test only the quickest skim before smacking it with a big red PASS stamp.

"You're in luck," she says. "One of the driving examiners is still here, so you can take the driving test right away. I can show you to the car -"

"That sounds great, Candy," Dean interrupts, digging in his pocket. "Sammy, if you'd rather, you can take your test in our car."

Dean tosses the keys over nice and easy, and Sam manages to catch them and keep his jaw from dropping. Dean's been teaching him how to drive, but he never thought he'd be giving him permission to take the car out on his own. Okay, so there'll be a grown-up in the passenger seat, but still. It's not going to be Dad or Dean, and Dean is saying I trust you. I know you won't let me down.

"Yeah," Sam finally answers. "I'll use our car. It's that one over there," he says, pointing it out to Candy.

"Nice," she says appreciatively, and when he turns in surprise to face her, he catches her eyeing Dean like a lion watching a gazelle on a Nature special. Typical.

*

Dean lets him drive home, not even muttering too many instructions under his breath, mostly just easy, easy and take your time and you're doin' fine, and on the way they find a pizza place that throws in garlic bread and soda for free if you order three large pizzas. "We could eat that standing on our heads," Dean says, smacking him on the chest with the back of his hand.

Dad's in exactly the same spot they left him in, only his mug is empty and crusty, the newspaper's got clumsy red circles all over it, and his bandages are stained with black and red ink. They eat in silence, sitting still to keep the heat of the day at bay.

Dean gets out a deck of cards when the paper plates are in the trash. It takes some finagling for Dad to figure out how to hold his cards comfortably, but they manage a few good rounds of gin rummy before Dad says it's bedtime.

Right. New school tomorrow. And he gets to stay for a whole year. It's been a while since he's been this nervous. He showers and tumbles into the softer bed, listening half-heartedly to the sound of Dean and Dad arguing - Dad proclaiming something and Dean making little murmurs of protest.

Whatever it is, it'll keep until morning. He rolls over, pulls the pillow over his head, and falls asleep.




When Dad walks into the kitchen the next morning with his wrists bare of bandages, Sam realizes what the fight last night was about. "Let's hit the road, jack," Dad says heartily while Sam contemplates dumping more Froot Loops into his milk. The skin on the inside of Dad's wrists is shiny and the same sick shade of pink as the leftover milk in his bowl. Sam pushes it away, then looks around in confusion when Dean doesn't swoop down like a vulture hopped up on sugar to snatch it away.

"Your brother trained and took off for work already," Dad tells him, impatience seeping into his tone. "Your lunch is in the fridge, unless you want a couple of bucks?"

Sam shakes his head. "Let's get this over with," Dad says, snagging the car keys from the counter. Sam grabs the brown paper bag from the fridge, stuffs it into his backpack, and dashes out to the car. Dad's already got the news station on the radio and the vents blowing cool air.

Ten minutes later, Dad's pulling into a narrow parking spot and putting the car into park. Sam turns to face him, waiting for the lecture on keeping his head down and his mind sharp, on not neglecting after-school training drills, and, above all, on not having an original thought in his brain. But Dad horrifies him by turning off the engine and opening his car door.

"What are you doing?" Sam asks, scandalized. Dad looks weird, in his dingy shirt and threadbare jeans, and that's not even mentioning his shiny wrists. "Dad! I know how to register for classes, okay?"

Dad stops, looking surprised. "You used to beg me -" he starts, then makes this weird little half-smile with one side of his mouth. "You don't need me comin' in, huh?"

Sam looks down at his feet. One of his shoelaces is untied. "You can if you want to," he says, squatting down to tie it.

"Yeah, alright, let's knock 'em dead," Dad says with a big cheesy grin when Sam stands back up, and mortifying as it is, Sam can't keep himself from grinning back.

Of course Dad charms the secretary sitting outside the principal's office, her desk lined with sad little teddy bears, and then he gets all buddy-buddy with the principal, who's still got his Army Corps physique and haircut. Sam wonders if they shipped him in, a tough-guy principal for a troubled school. But this school - the whole town, actually - seems pretty quiet.

"Mr. Winchester," he hears, and it takes Sam a minute to realize that the principal is talking to him and not to Dad.

"Yes, sir," he says automatically, and Dad and the principal both nod approvingly.

The principal holds out his hand and gives Sam's a hearty shake. "Welcome to Rapture High."

*

Dad's got self-preservation instincts out the wazoo, so he takes off before Sam has to report to the guidance office to arrange his class schedule. The office is jammed full of copier paper boxes, and there's almost no room for the chairs and desks too.

Sam's looking at the list of classes open to ninth-graders when a door in the back opens up and the principal comes through, one hand clamped firmly around the bicep of a white girl wearing a huge grey "Property of Rapture High Athletic Department" t-shirt; in his other hand, he's holding a scrap of material.

"Miss Heller," he says, waving the shiny blue cloth. Sam's decided it's a handkerchief, but he can't figure out why the guy's waving it around like there's going to be a drag race in the guidance office any minute now. "This is not appropriate apparel for an academic institution. I thought I had made myself clear on this topic last year. You'll wear the shirt I've loaned you for the rest of the day, including detention, and you will bring it back, washed and ironed, tomorrow. I do not want to have this conversation again. Do you understand me, Miss Heller?"

"Gotcha, champ," the girl says, snatching back the scrap and tucking it in the back pocket of her jeans. "Not that it's any of your business what kind of shirt I'm wearing."

Sam gulps.

The principal heaves a big sigh, one that works its way up from the tips of his toes. "Miss Heller, why do you persist in this attitude?"

"It's in the name," she grins, tossing back her long blondish-brownish hair. "I'm a hellcat."

The principal rolls his eyes and drops his hand. "Indeed," he says, and heads back for his office.

"Fascist," the girl mutters, coming up to the counter to stand next to Sam and rifle carelessly through the booklets and pamphlets fanned out in neat, bright semicircles. He watches her pull the hem of the oversized shirt through the collar to make a little Mary-Ann blouse; he gets a peek at a red lace bra and the soft-looking skin of her stomach and feels his face start to heat up.

He's startled by a hand patting his cheek gently. "Lighten up, frosh," she says. "It's only school, not real life." He thinks he makes a gurgling sound in his throat at the way she smells, all sweet and dangerous like a cherry firecracker or something, and she laughs. "Just one more year and I'm outta here," she says as she walks away. He watches her swaying hips and dancing hair all the way out the door.

"Mr. Winchester," he hears a disapproving voice say, and he rearranges the pamphlets hastily, takes a breath, slings his backpack down to cover his crotch as casually as he can, and moves toward his unsmiling guidance counselor.

*

The school's laid out like a capital H, and the four wings are all identical. It makes it hard to figure out exactly where he is, and it doesn't help that no one seems to use the actual room numbers.

"Oh, Mrs. H teaches in the math wing," one guy says when Sam asks the way to his Intro to Algebra class. Thanks, buddy, you've been a ton of help, he wants to say. Really.

He gets to Intro to Algebra two minutes late and slips into the last seat in the row. Good thing W comes at the end of the alphabet, because he's able to say "present" when his name is called out. Sam sneaks another look at his already tattered schedule while Mrs. Hershel launches into a speech that sounds like she's given it too often to still believe it, all about how exciting math is, and how algebra is a building block for so much more. He's got gym next. At least he knows he'll be able to find that; he seemed to end up at the gymnasium every time he got lost.

*

They change for gym at this school, and there's a bank of lime-crusted showers in the back of the locker room too. Without curtains, just to make sure that his humiliation is complete.

He didn't bring extra clothes, so he stands around awkwardly, compulsively rearranging his books and backpack in the tiny gym locker, shoulders hunched so no one can see what he's up to. He can't go out to the gym because he's learned from bitter experience not to be the first person out there. He just follows a couple of guys out to the main gym when they're finally changed. Some girls are already there, clumped together suspiciously in a tight huddle; they all seem to be fixing their hair or straightening out their shirts.

A tall bald guy comes out of an equipment room with a big cardboard box. He blows the whistle hanging around his neck and then flips the box, dumping dimpled red rubber balls and a heap of ratty, bright yellow mesh jerseys on the floor in the middle of the gym.

"Okay, people, listen up," the teacher says. "All we're doing today, to get the year started off right, is playing a simple game called dodgeball. You . . ." - he divides the boys with a sawing motion of his hand - "put on these jerseys." He splits the group of girls in half with the same unconcerned gesture. "Jerseys for you, ladies. Come on, come on, let's move it. I wanna see a little hustle out there!" The whistle blows again, a sharp high blast, and the game is on.

If he leaves out all the crap he has to endure from Dad's training regimen, there's very little Sam hates more than playing dodgeball. It's always seemed both pointless and cruel. He hopes and prays that Dad never comes up with Winchester Rules Dodgeball.

Sam's doing pretty well, weaving and dodging the balls whizzing by him like a champ, even if he hasn't actually gotten his hands on one yet, and that's when it happens. A big kid on the other team gets nailed in the shoulder, and he leaves the floor sulkily, dragging his feet. Now that he's gone, Sam can finally see who's been right behind him the whole time.

It's this girl.

She's beautiful. She's got hair the color of apricots, and a perfect oval face. She's turning a ball over in her hands as she nibbles on her lip, clearly considering her strategy; the movement sets off the silver charm bracelet she's wearing. He can't tell from here what color her eyes are, but they could be blue like the sky or hazel like -

THWONG! A ball hits him smack in the side of the head, and it's more the shock than the actual blow, but suddenly he's flat on his back on the shiny parquet floor and his head is throbbing. He can see her little lace socks peeking out from her bright white Keds and he thinks he hears a whistle blow.

There's a warm hand on his shoulder. He looks up to see some blond kid holding out his hand, ready to help him up. "Man, that looked like it hurt," the guy says, big brown eyes round like he's never seen anything so brutal.

"Not really," Sam says, not sure yet if he's lying. The guy must be pretty strong to pull him up so easily, but his hand is soft and unmarked by calluses. "Thanks, man."

"I’m Pete," the guy says. "And hey, you won the game for us. Snyder said going for the head's totally against the rules."

"I’m Sam. Glad to be of service." Sam rubs his head, and Pete cracks up.

He catches a glimpse of the girl as they trail off to their respective locker rooms. Her hair hangs halfway down her back, all sleek and shiny.

*

The cafeteria is a zoo. Sam's sure he read something in the guidance counselor's office about there being only a few hundred students in the whole school, but it looks like the entire population of Los Angeles recently immigrated to the Rapture High cafeteria.

Against impossible odds, Pete finds him and steers him to a table where a couple of the guys Sam recognizes from Intro to Algebra and World History are already scarfing down their lunches. The cafeteria food actually looks pretty good, if the way Dennis and Aaron are putting it away is any indication, and Sam regards his peanut butter and grape jelly on white with resignation.

Pete pushes his bag of Ruffles to halfway between them so they can share, though, as if they've been friends forever. Sam glances over at the other two guys. Aaron and Dennis have finished eating and are having a heated conversation about last night's episode of The X-Files, and he can tell they're deep enough in it that only the sound of the bell will get their attention.

He leans across the table a little, and Pete leans in too. "That girl from gym class," Sam says in a low voice. "Do you know her name?"

"Which girl?" Pete shoves a handful of potato chips into his mouth, looking around like he expects her to have a sign around her neck; Dad would have flayed him for a trick like that.

"You know. The girl."

"There were like fifteen girls in that class! Which one are you talking about?" At least Pete's keeping his voice down.

"Um. Reddish hair down to like here, um, shiny and straight?" Sam closes his eyes to summon the image more readily. "Oh! And a charm bracelet!"

"Oh. That's Jaime Collins."

Jaime. That's a beautiful name. It suits her.

"That stupid charm bracelet of hers drives me nuts," Pete adds, finishing up his milk.

"What? Why?"

"Because she never takes it off, and since I've sat behind her in pretty much every class almost all my life, I get to hear it rattle against her desk every time she moves even an inch. Sucks when we're in the middle of a pop quiz."

Sam's still stuck on an earlier point. "What do you mean, you've sat behind her all your life? Is she . . . is she your girlfriend?"

Pete starts to laugh. "No! No, we've just always had assigned seats, and since Collins comes right before Crawford, I was always right behind her, that's all."

Sam fixes him with a look that he hopes demands honesty. "Does she have a boyfriend?"

Pete leans forward, getting crumbs on his shirt. "Nope. It's kind of hard to get all worked up over a girl when you can remember her throwing up all over you in second grade. She was pretty pukey that whole year."

So what? She's not pukey at all now, and if none of the boys around here can get past that, then he's got a little more room to maneuver. He needs to think.

Or at least get tips from the master.

*

Dean's beaten him home, and is lying across the whole couch, boots kicked off and the sleeves of his shirt rolled up. Sam sees him crack an eye open for the standard once-over Dean always performs, even though Sam can perfectly well take care of himself, and in any case the kids around here are as soft as can be; he could see Principal Bergen posing a challenge, but not anyone else.

"So?" Dean asks, closing his eye casually and burrowing his shoulders deeper into the thin couch cushions. "Are you enraptured by school yet?"

"Sometimes you're so funny I forget to laugh, Dean," Sam says, and Dean grins. "How was work?"

"Good. Ed's a good guy. I owe Bobby for talkin' to him for me, but you can bet Ed's gonna make sure he gets his money's worth."

"Ed? I thought Uncle Bobby said his name was Russell."

Dean laughs. "Nah, that's just a nickname, cause he's always sayin' it. 'Lemme go rustle up a new transmission for this car,' I heard him say today."

"Oh." How does Dean do that, get everybody to just be themselves around him, and then fit himself in with them, even though he can never be honest about his job, and sometimes even his name is a lie? Sam can't even ask, because Dean never seems aware that he's doing any such thing.

But flirting, bagging a girl - those are things Dean would definitely help with. Sam opens his mouth to ask, then reconsiders. Maybe this is something he should figure out for himself. Over some leftover pizza.


2/4

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Yay! Can't wait to read it!

YAY!! I've been waiting for this!! I can't wait to read it!

i am usually not one to read gen, i love my boys on bosy :) :) but this sounds just so awesome that once i get home (i do have the pleasure of being at work now...sigh...) i will read it...i cant wait, looking very much forward to it...hugs...

My fingers are crossed that you'll have a good time with it!

I want to read it noooowwwwwwww.

*bookmarks for the weekend, cries...no, wait, print it out NOW to read it on the commute tomorrow, yay*

I finally got to read this just before I went away, and it's awesome.

I actually just included it in my Friday FicRec for this week, here.

Great read!

Thank you so much - I'm so pleased this worked for you!

sammy would play chess with himself and lose wouldn't he? great characterization so far! :)

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