The feeling was regret.
Sam was familiar with the concept. Not as much as his brother, who had shrieked loud enough to wake the entirety of Bunker Hall this morning when he’d lost track of a spider only for it to reappear on his hand when he went to check his phone. But Sam Winchester, freshman at Stanford University, was indeed acquainted with the familiar sensation of having fucked up. However, what Sam was not well adjusted to feeling was this much regret. And how much regret that was had yet to even be settled, considering there were still another 20 minutes left on the clock in this dilapidated classroom, during which time he instinctively knew he was going to spend under the scrutinizing and uncomfortable gaze of the TA, who he hadn’t quite caught the name of.
The professor had said that he was a 3L student, wrapping up his final year of law school before setting off into the world of dog eat dog courtroom drama, but judging by the smirk pulling at his features, Sam felt reasonably certain that the guy could probably handle himself. There was something ominous lurking in that gaze that he couldn’t quite explain, but whatever it was, it had been shooting tingles down his spine since he’d sat down and the two had made coincidental eye contact, hence the regret he was now suffering. Sam had past broken it ten minutes ago, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t feel the gaze travelling over his form with a downright predatory leer.
He would have compared it to the glances that his brother sometimes threw at women in bars, many of whom usually turned up their noses in response, but Dean hadn’t been overtly flirty from what he’d seen since he’d arrived on campus a few days ago. Of course, when Sam pointed this out, Dean categorically denied it, then proceeded to hit on the next ten ladies who dared pass their booth with anything resembling a set of boobs. This changed nothing though. Sam knew what was up. Hell, all of Bunker Hall probably knew what was up. Well, all of them but Dean, apparently, because he chose to permanently hibernate from the truth, which was that he had a big ol’ gay crush on this guy he’d had a few general educations courses with.
Their dad hadn’t exactly been sold on homosexuality’s harmlessness though, and Sam could give his brother that. However, the man also hadn’t been sold on the virtue of not passing out drunk most nights after he’d gone hunting. Dean was a soldier though, through and through, who believed the word of their deadbeat dad—with emphasis on dead—to be law, regardless of how cute this dude was, with his misunderstanding of metaphors and tendency to wander into the woods following bees. He’d evidently been mistaken as shy by the older Winchester, up until his roommate had apparently started to roll out the obligatory childhood stories of embarrassment, complete with photographic evidence, at which point the guy had finally spoken up, if only to shut his annoying sibling up.
If only it had been long-term, Sam sighed internally, glancing again at the clock. In fifteen minutes, he would be returning to the hell that was Bunker Hall, where there never seemed to be a consistent silence lasting longer than three minutes without someone either screaming their lungs out or rolling a fridge down the stairs to break his concentration. 3rd floor wasn’t the worst, he supposed, although the RA was allegedly generally absent from his duties, preferring to instead heed the call of what Dean called life’s pleasures, otherwise referred to as slacking off elsewhere in Palo Alto with a glass of wine in hand and his feet propped up on some cushy surface. Sam wasn’t resentful of this. He doubted any one person would be able to tame the noise, let alone someone who sounded as unthreatening as that guy.
Although, the TA might have been able to scare them into submission. Sam momentarily thought that perhaps the uncomfortable leer he felt drilling lasers into his flesh had subsided, but a quick check upwards told him that he was sadly mistaken. If this was a test, he was neither sure what kind it was, nor its purpose, but either way, he had the sinking feeling that this semester was about to declare itself his enemy.
Fortunately, the actual professor of the course chose to intercede at that moment, stepping forward and announcing that that would be the end of class today, and that their assignment would be to start reading Chapters 1 and 2 of the textbook. Sam quickly took the opportunity to retrieve his planner from his messenger bag and flatten it to today’s date, avoiding the lingering eyes of the TA, which eventually lifted from his frame after a moment. He then shoved the notebook back into his bag, slung it around his shoulder, and hurriedly walked out, the urge to bolt being squashed with the majority of his nervous energy.
Outside, he found himself walking until he reached a bench, at which point he had to decide whether or not he wanted to do himself the favor of finding somewhere else to hang out until his next class, or return to Bunker Hall and pray that no one was throwing a mid-afternoon party. After furiously debating the topic, he elected to give in and perhaps tuck a few minutes away back in his and Dean’s dorm to get started on the material for the class he’d just left. Something about the TA’s shifty gaze lingering on him told him he should be prepared to be called on the next time they met.
It was a short walk across campus, or so it seemed, with his earbuds drowning out noises passing him as he strode past, fingers crossed behind his back that the hall wouldn’t be buzzing with day drinkers and excessive noise. It looked quiet enough when he approached the front steps, swiping into the building with his ID card. Inside was relatively silent, excluding the low hum of a movie playing on the impressive flat-screen pinned to the wall of the lobby. A couple strides in, Sam couldn't help but notice a figure collapsed on one of the couches, arm hanging off the ledge with knuckles brushing the carpet. An agonized expression adorned the face of the blonde man as he twisted slightly at the sound of Sam's entrance, craning his neck to look up at the noise.
"Oh. Hello. You're new." He had a distinctly English accent, ever so slightly disdainful.
"Uh...yes. I'm Sam. Sam--"
"--Winchester. Ah, that's right. Dean did mention his brother would be moving in this year." The man on the couch rearranged his body to sit up, cracking his neck as he did so, then met Sam's gaze with an outstretched hand. "It’s a pleasure. Should you need anything, please do hesitate to contact me, but if it is absolutely necessary, I live at the end of the hall on the 2nd floor."
"Thank you! And you are...?"
"Balthazar.” Withdrawing his arm, he continued, “International studies major and…” he sighed for effect, looking Sam down with disdain, “…your RA. I live for the finer things in life, none of which reside in this hall. Good day, Winchester. Please be slightly less insufferable than your brother."
The conversation seemed to come to an abrupt halt, at which point Sam felt his feet moving towards the Ivy League-esque staircase, carrying him up the flights until he reached the top. The third floor was nothing like the first in style nor decibel. Voices ran rampant through the halls in various tones and volumes, each as unidentifiable as the last. A shiver of excitement as well as dread raced down his spine. So many more people lived up here than he’d thought. It hadn’t seemed the case a few days ago, when he’d first dropped his boxes in their shared room, sizing up his side with an analytical eye. Were they always this loud? He wondered silently as he crept through the carpeted hallway, analyzing the doors. He certainly hoped not. How in the world had Dean accomplished two years of study in this building if so?
Not that Dean was the studying type. He was firmly convinced that his brother had only made it this far into school by charming his way into the good graces of several rather intelligent girls with excellent note-taking abilities. Sam had always been the more academic of the two, which was what had made Dean getting into Stanford so surprising to begin with. His grades in school had never been stellar, as he had cared much less for schoolwork than he had for distractions, such as hunting, working on cars, and women, and when the letter had come to the house, Sam had thought it was a mistake for sure.
Little did he know it was anything but. Dean had apparently applied without telling neither him nor their father, who’d been the school’s in-house mechanic at the time, and allegedly crafted a very convincing application with the help of his girlfriend, Lisa, which he had sent in whilst fooling Sam and John into believing he had no interest in college whatsoever. In the two going on three years that had elapsed since, Sam hadn’t quite figured out why Dean had had the sudden change of heart about attending, since he’d otherwise remained the same as he’d always been, both in his interests and in his performance.
Sam approached the end of the hallway, as Balthazar had described, to locate his and Dean’s door, which, now that the RA had pointed it out, was decorated rather dully, particular in contrast to the one adjacent theirs, which had a white board blocking the room number and several stickers of musical notes flanking it. On the whiteboard, someone, presumably one of the tenant’s, had drawn a very accurate image of what appeared to be a skeleton playing the trumpet, with the words ‘doot doot,’ beneath it. Glancing back at his own door, Sam swallowed a lump of apprehension in his throat and knocked, announcing himself. “Dean, it’s me.”
He heard the sound of the door opening before he saw it, which was frightening, considering that he hadn’t expected it to be the one behind him. Consequentially, he nearly jumped when he heard the words, “Hey! You must be Dean-o’s brother, the famous Sam Winchester!”
The dread in his windpipe increased fivefold as he turned around, pasting a smile on his face for the stranger across the hallway, who turned out to be a short, smirking fellow with slightly unruly golden-brown hair brushed away from his face, wearing a plaid ¾ shirt that Sam was positive he himself had owned several years ago, before his growth spurt had taken him from miserably small to exceptionally tall. “I don’t know about famous,” he replied, as socially awkward as always.
Dean had never mentioned knowing his neighbors. In fact, Sam had asked him, point blank, at one point whether or not he knew anyone else on the floor even, and he had responded with a no. Did that inquiry somehow not include their adjacent neighbors with the impressive door decorations?
“Well, I do. We’ve heard tales of your exploits, Sam, even all the way out here in Palo Alto.” The man quirked a brow mischievously, leaving his words vague for the pit in Sam’s stomach to widen. What was this guy talking about? Is he just trying to psyche me out? Sam questioned to himself, eyebrows knitting together in confusion.
“We?” He decided to question in response, putting his other thoughts on the backburner.
“My little brother and I.” It was the first time Sam had noticed, but in the open doorway, he could see another person in the room, sitting against the foot of the bed with his knees serving as a desk for the sheet music he appeared to be working on. At his mention, the boy glanced over, meeting Sam’s eyes with his own piercing blue ones for just a second before returning to his work.
“Sorry about him. Cas’s not much of a social butterfly, are ya, Cas?”
“Shut up, Gabriel,” growled the sibling at a low timbre. It had little effect on the spirit of his golden-haired brother, who gleefully turned back to Sam, who had been the watching the entire exchange in an effort to memorize their names.
Gabriel. Like the archangel, he scribbled down mentally, noting the unusual eye color of the older two to be a hypnotic cross between honey and whiskey as they crinkled with the smile of the man when he spoke, “Anyhow. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Sam Winchester. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” Sam replied generically, unnerved out of his mind by how hauntingly the guy had said it. The two shook hands, before Gabriel stepped back inside, mumbling something to his brother with a laugh before closing the door, which left Sam standing as he had been, right in front of his and Dean’s door, except with more anxiety than before, somehow.
Fishing for his keys in his pocket, his breath hitched as he thought about the exploits Gabriel had mentioned. What the hell had that been about? What exploits? His mind went through a myriad of embarrassing possibilities before he managed to extract his keys from his coat pocket and unlocking the door. He slipped inside and peeled off his backpack and jacket, not bothering to secure the door behind him. Maybe this was all some kind of elaborate prank by Dean. It did sound like something his fool of a sibling would come up with; setting Sam up for constant anxiety by alleging he knew none of the other residents in their building, then plotting with the two across the hall to make Sam think they knew some kind of special information about him. His “exploits.” Whatever the hell those were.
He supposed he would just have to wait to find out.