It took three tries to get the bike through the double glass doors but he managed it in the end, all the while trying to ignore the way half the lobby was staring at him as if he were some loose raccoon- and yeah, okay, sure, it wouldn't have been so hard if he were say five inches shorter and the bike was scaled accordingly, but still, it wasn't that much of a spectacle.
Sam stepped into the airy lobby, running and hand through his hair because, fine maybe he had flailed just a little bit and it might be out of order. Luckily, it was one of the few things (maybe the only thing) that seemed to always sort itself out in his life and it flopped back into place easily. His mom had asked him three times in the past week to cut it before today, but no, sorry- anyways he'd gotten the job fine already, the hard part was over. And sure, maybe his first day at the job he'd worked towards for the past six years of his life wasn't going perfectly so far, but what ever did? It might have been easier if he hadn't woken up to Metallica playing four notches louder than he knew his stereo even went and gotten his hand half stuck to a kitchen counter still smeared with maple syrup after waiting a good half an hour to use the shower.
He'd gone years without that kind of thing, blessed, reverent years. None of his roommates had even come close to the pure destructive force Dean could inflict on a kitchen, but despite the milk left out on the counter, the boxer shorts on the bathroom floor, and the toothpaste cap Sam was sure was now certainly lost or better left undiscovered, he was happy Dean was there.
He'd gotten the call a week ago: "Dammit Sammy- I'm outside, open the door."
What with the call itself and the fact that it was three in the morning Sam's interest was already piqued, but by the time he managed to get out of bed and make it down the close winding three flights of stairs in the brownstone he'd managed to get a place in, he was starting to draw his own conclusions. And then when he saw the bags. Well...
Four beers later most of it was clear, or at least as much of it as Dean was going to make clear. Sam had learned from a black eye at sixteen not to push him on the whole sharing thing.
It had been another fight with Dad, from the sound of things the last fight with Dad, and that territory was plenty familiar. Sam still had a little scar on his cheek from the glass that had flown in the wake of the beer bottle shattering on the coffee table, and judging by Dean's black eye things had gone just as well between them.
Seemed like it had been something small, and then something a little bigger. Sam got that it was something about the garage- something that had started out as business and turned into something else altogether. Drinking had been involved (it always was, even since the divorce). One mistake turned into twenty and words came out at just the right time to not be brushed off and ignored, but heard, really heard, sharp and mean and as good as the old man could get, and it seemed that enough was enough and there was Dean, standing under the light above the front door, same old leather jacket, same old duffle bag over his shoulder, same old environmentally disastrous old beater double parked out front.
He hadn't talked much those first couple of days (except to complain that Boston was "cold as ever-loving fuck" and that most of the dudes looked like they were ready to beat someone's ass over an scantly salted pretzel). Well, he hadn't really talked unless they were half a bottle of Jack down and climbing, but Sam was used to that and eventually the emotional hangover seemed to loosen and the blasting music wasn't quite as full of seeping rage and the pancakes started to materialize amidst sticky counter tops and strong coffee.
He'd actually managed to get up early enough to wish him luck on for Sam's first day, somehow sounding both unimpressed and beyond proud all at once in a way that was just pure Dean. And now here Sam was, being stared at by receptionists like he was an escaped convict as he picked up his three-speed and hefted it over the couple of steps between the doorway and the front desk where a rather bored looking twenty-something brunette was tapping away at her keyboard, under the bold, sternly classical golden lettering staring down from the secured position against the white marble wall: "Pater, Filius & Umbra".
"Hi!" He said, trying out his best first-day-friendly smile as he approached the desk.
She looked up sharply, clearly fully prepared to be annoyed but her eyes kinda swelled when she saw him and a little smiled seemed to take the edges of her lips by surprise.
"Oh." She managed, the intruding smile's territory spreading as she looked down and then up. He was used to that particular look, it was the "really? they come that tall?" look.
"Yes?" She asked, voice melting into something pleasant as she leaned on her hand a bit, "Can I help you?"
"Sam-" He began, reaching out to shake her hand with the fingers that weren't still holding the bike up by his shoulder, "Sam Winchester, I'm starting today."
"I see," She said, smile now using teeth to gain the upper ground, "Let me just see if you're in the system,"
Her eyes didn't seem totally on board with the decision to turn back to the computer, but she tapped at the keys quickly and efficiantly and--
"Yes, I see, you're right here. Sam Winchester." She said, taking a few extra seconds with the name.
Sam adjusted the bike on his shoulder, "Great! Is there some place I can put this?"
"Oh," She said, a little startled, as if she was just noticing the giant bicycle, "Well, umm… no one usually, that is-- people don't usually bike here…"
"Really?" Sam said, not attempting to hide the genuine surprise, "But it's… come on, there must be other people who bike."
"The partners and associates usually drive, there's the lot in the basement levels--"
"Yeah, but really?" Sam continued, "I mean it's a city, I can't be the only one who doesn't drive."
"No but…" The girl seemed thoroughly uncomfortable now, glancing around like they were in over the east German border or something, "It's just--" She leaned a little closer, "Mr. Zachariah doesn't like it, he says--"
"Nice bike." Came a smooth voice.
"Thanks--" Sam said, hardly turning around to see who was talking to him, focusing back on the girl and her attempts to explain the frankly irresponsible commuting policies, "But look--"
"Three speed?" The voice sounded again, enthusiastic but in a rather bizarrely casual way.
"Yeah--" Sam said, again without turning, "See, I'm just--"
And then he saw her face.
She wasn't looking at him any longer, but she was certainly looking, staring really, eyes big and round and wide and she had gone sort of pale and the smile he'd manage to cultivate had snapped away like some hard frost had hit her- in fact she really did look completely frozen in fear, just staring: staring over his shoulder.
Sam carefully followed her look and turned around, instantly and phenomenally underwhelmed.
It was a guy. Just some guy. He had the kind of casual entitled expression on his face that Sam had seen Dean hit people for when he'd had too many.
He was smiling back at Sam in a pleasant, easy manner. He was shorter than he was- okay, yeah, most people were, and realistically he was almost tall, and normal. Blonde. Squarish face. Normal.
Did he even work there? He was suddenly skeptical. Sam had worn the new suit his mom had come into town particularly to help him pick out because it was a reputable law firm after all, but this guy… He had a suit jacket, but then just some average jeans and under the jacket a pretty standard green t-shirt. No briefcase- no bag. Nothing.
The stranger moved his pale blue eyes from the bike to Sam's face and well, maybe he wasn’t totally normal.
There was something there. Something sharp. Really sharp.
He smiled in a weird way that seemed careful and easy all at once, tilted his head a little and stared at him like he was something strange and just interesting enough to spend attention on.
“Yeah, hey,” Sam said back.
“Problem?” He asked, still staring at Sam in that weird way, but quite apparently speaking to the girl behind him.
She didn’t seem capable of answering.
“I was just looking for a place to keep my bike,” Sam picked up, “She was telling me people don’t bike here...”
The man’s face hardly moved. Still staring. Still weirdly smiling.
“It’s fine.” He said.
Sam furrowed his heavy brow, “But she said--”
“It’s fine.” The man repeated. He took one step closer, hands easily slipped into his pockets, “Isn’t it Julia?”
“I--” A small voice echoed behind them, “I didn’t know, I--”
And then the stare pulled away from his and Sam felt himself breath out sharply, which was strange because he hadn’t been holding his breathe. Had he?
The man clapped a hand against Sam’s shoulder in a vagrantly familiar way as he smiled at the receptionist, teeth and all.
“Apparently not,” He said and squeezed Sam’s shoulder a bit, as if suddenly touching him for no reason whatsoever wasn’t quite enough awkward physical contact, “Come on, you can keep it with the messengers'.”
“Oh--” Sam started, “Alright, if you’re sure that’s okay with everyone,” He was already being directed away from the desk towards the other end of the lobby. He glanced over his shoulder quickly back towards the girl who was still staring after them, looking as if she had just seen some horrible car accident. In fact she wasn’t the only one, the girl next to her was staring at them with the same face as well, and the suited man she had been helping, and the woman behind him and... everyone. Every single person in the lobby was staring.
Jesus... did these people really have such an issue with sustainable commuting? Or him? Or what? Maybe this Mr. Zachariah experienced some kind of childhood trauma--
“Don’t mind them.” The calm voice said easily next to him, as he thankfully pulled his hand back to his own side, “They just aren’t use to progressive thinking.”
It was a weird voice too. Sam was starting to think most things about this guy were a little off. It was quiet, gentle, but felt strong all the same, almost like promised strength. He was too familiar with that feeling, the feeling of a voice you really really did not want to yell and was almost scary because you knew that if it ever did... well that might be the least of your problems.
“Do you work here?” Sam asked suddenly.
The man glanced at him in the sideways manner, “Do I look like I work here?”
Sam narrowed his eyes, “Well, no.”
The man raised his eyebrows quickly as if he was offended but Sam got a tingling sense he’d honed after years with bratty trust funders that he was being mocked.
“But," Sam continued, "You apparently know where the messengers keep their bikes so...”
“Can see why they snatched you up.” The man said, “Here we go.”
He stopped dead in front of a door Sam hadn’t even noticed they were approaching, and hardly had time to look at before his bizarre companion pressed the tip of his index finger into the scanner on the lock and the thing clicked open.
“Hm.” The man said, as if he could be surprised.
The man pushed the door open almost gracefully with his fingertips and stepped into the dark, lights shuddering into automatic life. A few messenger bikes were set up in a rack off to one side. There was plenty of room but...
“Um--” Sam started, awkwardly lingering by the door, “Are you sure this alright? I mean I can figure something out, it’s my first day and I don’t want to--”
“It’s fine.” The man said. He said it like it was. Like because he said so it was. Which was strangely authoritative and confident for a man who seemed for all purposes to be breaking into a bike storage room.
But it worked all the same.
“Okay.” Sam heard himself saying, slipping the bicycle off his shoulder.
“Tired?” The man asked, tilting his head again a little and staring at Sam’s arms as he maneuvered the bike into the rack.
“No,” Sam said.
“Mmm.” For a noise like that it came a little too easily and a little too loud in the close space.
Sam cleared his throat.
When he stood up the man was already holding the door open for him to exit again so he did.
He was followed out and made as if to turn for the elevators but then stopped suddenly, “Oh, I didn’t ask her... I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.”
“Twenty-third floor.” The man said, still walking towards the elevators and Sam found himself following him.
“How do you--?”
“You said you were new. You’ve got a tie, and a brief case- not nervous enough for a paralegal. Certainly not a partner- not with that eager, hopeful look. Associate. New. Twenty-third.”
The elevator dinged. Sam hadn’t even seen him push the button.
He nodded his head slightly as he looked at Sam and smiled as if to gesture him inside. Sam shut his mouth and stepped in. The man followed him, waited, and watched easily as Sam reached out after a moment and pressed the little round “23” that lit up with a responsive warm glow.
The doors shut.
“Are you--?” Sam began, keeping his hand over the buttons.
“Oh that will do.” His companion said, leaning against the wall, shoulder slouching up in a rather feline way.
The elevator began to move. Sam had the strong sensation that the man was looking at him still- not really staring, just sort of looking, like he wasn’t exactly fascinating but certainly interesting. And he was apparently more practiced at awkward silence because by the time the lift’s little “5” lit up Sam’s body seemed to be taking actions on it’s own.
He turned and faced him. Yup. Watching. Definitely watching.
Sam stuck his hand out in a sharp determined-to-slice-the-awkward sort of way.
“I’m Sam.” He said.
The man stared at his face and then slowly let his eyes drift down to the outstretched hand. He reached out in the same slow graceful way he had pushed the door open and took it.
Sam snorted out a laugh.
The man didn’t flinch.
“That’s good,” Sam said, a little weirded out by how wooden his own smile had suddenly gone.
“Is it?” The man asked, raising his eyebrows just half an inch.
He was still holding his hand. Sam tried to ignore it. His fingers were tightening a bit. He ignored that too.
“That’s your name?” He asked carefully.
“I believe I said it was.”
The man shrugged, “It’s Italian.”
Sam cocked an eyebrow, staring at this guy who looked like his ancestors might have raised elk and invented obnoxious colored sweaters for lack of better things to do in Scandinavian darkness.
“Oh.” Sam said.
He was still holding his hand.
Sam looked down at their fingers, “Um--”
The man dropped his hand smoothly and lifted himself off the wall.
Sam almost let himself feel relieved until the man took a step forward, and then another. He was closer now. Stupid close. Socially thoughtless close. It had happened quickly and somehow Sam didn’t feel right backing away- well, that and the fact that he would run into the other wall before he could take two steps.
The man made a soft sound and Sam realized he was... sniffing?
“Mmm.” He said. Again.
He looked up at Sam simply, as if they were not standing an utterly uncomfortable mere inches away from each other. When he spoke he voice was lower, quieter.
Sam was stuck. He didn't know what to do. He hadn’t taken the class on “strange men invading your personal space and then looking at you like you're a bit crazy”. He hand't thought thing like this even happened to people- things of this entirely unprecedented level of strange.
“Urmh--” He managed.
The face below his with the slicing eyes tilted slightly.
“Your conditioner. Lilac?”
Sam was seriously considering retreating as far away as he could, even if it meant cowering in the corner of the confined space, but in that exact moment found he was suddenly terrified that if he tried this total stranger would snatch his arms and stop him and it was weird and stupid but now he was almost sweating and his neck was all hot and the calm face was even closer and--
The doors slid open smoothly.
Sam fell out of the elevator all at once, stumbling away in all his gangly grace and almost falling, spinning to catch himself again and then trying to recover as reasonably as possible under the sudden attention of about ten suited gazes.
He swallowed and stood up straight and tried to look calm as he glanced around back over his shoulder.
He was gone.
Sam stared. He suddenly felt a very strong urge to take a shower and knew in that moment he was throwing away that condition the second he got home.
He spun and instantly his vision was bombarded with a glib smile, grey suit, and no doubt an equally expensive haircut.
“There you are,” The charming accent continued, slapping a hand on his shoulder.
“Am I on the right floor?” Sam asked, just managing to pull his mind back into line.
“Yes, of course,” Balthazar smiled at him in an amused fashion, “Were you planning on being somewhere else?”
He seemed pleased to see him if in a rather bored way but Sam had gotten the impression during the interview that was just how Balthazar was with most things. It was his sharp English accent that had left the treasured message on Sam's phone, the message he had celebrated for a week and was sure would change his life. He’d gotten the job. He was at the job. This was a good day. Socially inept elevator pervs aside...
“No,” Sam said, getting the hang of words now, “No, of course not. Hi!” He stuck his hand out and the man shook it firmly.
“Yes, hello. Now come along, staff meeting.”
“What? But I haven’t even--” Balthazar was already half way down the hall and Sam had to take a few steps to catch up.
“Later.” Balthazar said simply.
“But--” Sam tried but it was too late, Balthazar turned a corner, pushed a glass door open and the gentle hum of voices clustered in around them as they squeezed between the fifty or so people filling the conference room.
Sam managed to fit in well enough as Balthazar sighed at his side and checked his watch sharply. Being as Dean put it “so tall god’s spit hits you first” was good for some things- and Sam took a chance to glance around at his new colleagues.
There really weren’t as many people in the room as he’d first thought, there were some milling about the back with him looking pretty much like everyone he went to school with, only slightly more stressed and a good deal better dressed. Balthazar was chatting closely with some red haired woman next to them, she glanced at Sam and smiled in a kind way, even if her eyes seemed nervous.
The table in the middle of the room appeared to have been claimed first, and judging by the ease with which the occupants sat there hadn't been much debate in the matter.
At the head of the table a man was standing in front of his chair, sternly ordering some papers in front of him and staring down at them as if they were personally offensive. His whole attitude made it seem like underneath his suit were marble limbs, flexible only at the joints and only in the most limited way possible.
The whole image of rigidity was perhaps only so vivid when compared to the human pile of ooze thrown over the seat to the right. The sloth in question had one leg thrown up on the table, another crossed over it up in his lap. If his chair leaned any further backwards, Sam was positive he would be on the floor, but he didn’t seem like he would care one bit. His hands were folded behind his head and he wasn’t... smoking? No- Sam realized as the slouch rolled the thing against his tongue: a lollipop. He was actually sucking a lollipop. Perhaps he was quitting smoking- oral fixations, or whatever they said, and even though Sam had always hated those stupid Freudian lectures at school, the look of desperately preserved adolescence that virtually dripped off of the guy... well, maybe not even Freud couldn't be wrong about completely everything.
Across from him sat a man with the kind of face you usually saw staring out of investment banking advertisements: bald, non-threatening, slightly smug- as if he'd earned something, deserved it, and you could get there too if you just placed most of your savings between his idly twiddling fingers. He reminded Sam of an business law professor he'd had in his third year who spoke in one endless train and winked at the first-years, in love with the sound of his own obvious brilliance and daring you to try and think otherwise.
"That's enough." said the marble man at the front, in the most seeking-the-death-penalty-for-the-betterment-of-human-society voice Sam had ever heard.
Silence snapped into the room, leaving only sound of a lollipop clicking against what Sam guessed must be long-suffering teeth.
The man at the front raised his head, dark eyes sweeping in one steady path along the faces filling the room.
"If we are ready to proceed..."
No one seemed to have any argument. Sam glanced over towards Balthazar, almost half hoping he was going to get a bit more in terms of first day training, but the brit was still muttering something quietly to the pretty redhead next to him.
"I'm sure most of you are wondering why this meeting is taking place a few days earlier than is usual," the man at the front continued.
"You know I'm supposed to be meeting with the SucroCorp board right this minute--" the bald man snapped impatiently.
"I am aware Zachariah, I'm sure we have all had schedules interrupted." the stony voice answered.
Zachariah. The bizarro bike policy made slightly more sense now.
"Don't worry," the lolling man across from him smiled, removing the lollipop as he spoke and spinning it between fingers, "No one could ever replace you, starlight."
"As I was saying," the master of ceremonies continued sternly, "This meeting has arrived at an inconvenient time, but matters have arisen that require this firm's full and immediate attention."
Zachariah huffed as if he didn't quite think it was possible for an imminent meteor to override his previous schedule.
"Stop being such a tease, Raphael- you'll spoil the children," the walking-oral-fixation said with a click of his tongue and a head bob towards the uncomfortably milling staff behind them.
The man at the front ignored him with what seemed like ancient practice, "We are joined today by a returning senior partner of Pater, Fillius, and Umbra."
The room rippled suddenly with excited small whispers and Sam glanced around to try and catch some of it but Balthazar and the girl were muttering quickly and closely and he couldn't hear a word.
"What?" Zachariah suddenly snapped, "Michael's not supposed to get back from L.A. for another week."
"I'm not talking about Michael." Raphael said.
The sweet-tooth across the table suddenly stopped twirling his lollipop. Sam felt a stillness beside him and glanced over. Balthazar and the woman next to him were no longer muttering, they were staring, suddenly intently focused on what was taking place. What ever it was Zachariah didn't seem to notice.
"Well, who the hell else would we be talking about?" he asked peevishly.
"Me." said a quiet voice. A newly familiar voice. A voice that felt only inches away from Sam's ear.
Sam jumped so hard that he almost crashed into Balthazar but the man caught him sideways and pushed him back upright. Sam tried to get his breathing back but it was a little hard staring at someone he had really really hoped he wouldn't see again. Someone who had apparently been standing directly behind him this entire time…. someone who he realized suddenly everyone in the room was staring at with as much livid surprise as he was as the man walked easily towards the front of the room with his hands in the pockets of his jeans.
"Bloody hell," he heard Balthazar mutter next to him.
Sam glanced down at him, "Who is that? Does he work here?"
He didn't get an answer.
The man stopped half way up the table, directly above Zachariah and stared down. All the color had flooded out of the bald man's face and he was looking up at the newcomer like those Nazis had stared into that box at the end of Raiders- that was after the greedy wonder had quite literally melted right off.
"No," Zachariah managed eloquently, "You… you're not--"
The man reached inside his suit jacket and took out a small orange pill bottle, snapping off the cap easily and shaking out a few round blue tablets. He tossed them back.
"How those workin' out for you?" the candy-man asked from across the table.
"Just like mom used to make," he smiled back.
"No--" Zachariah continued, apparently starting to remember how words worked, "He's not-- he can't be here!"
"He has completed his program," Raphael droned, "And we have received proper notifications from the staff that he is fully capable of returning to the firm, and given the keenly noticed clause in the senior partnership termination conditions--"
"Section five, sub clause F--" The man muttered, leaning back on his heels casually with a quiet smile.
Raphael looked at him quickly and then continued, "Since he has met the terms required, he may resume his responsibilities at Pater, Fillius, and Umbra."
"Post-haste." the man finished smoothly.
Sam leaned over slightly, "What's happening?" he whispered.
"Shh!" Balthazar scolded back, eyes tight on the scene in front of them.
"So, you're back?" The sloucher asked with an eyebrow cocked.
"It would certainly seem so," the newcomer answered.
"No heads up? They don't have phones there?"
The man smiled, "They're not encouraged."
"I am aware there must be some confusion," Raphael said in a slightly louder voice, speaking to the room at large, "For those of you have not been with us for some time, and are unfamiliar with these circumstances, allow me to present: Nick Lucius."
"Fuck me." Sam swore.
He only realized he'd actually let the obscenities spill out when several people turned to stare at him accusingly but by then his hand was already over his mouth in an attempt to compose himself.
No. He must have heard wrong. No way. No way in hell.
"So…" Zachariah said weakly, "You're… back?"
"I know," Nick said sympathetically, "It is all very confusing."
"You won't be..." Zachariah's mouth squirmed up into a confused line, "Taking clients…?"
Nick stuck his lip out slightly and cocked his head to stare down at the table, specifically at the spot right in front of Zachariah, specifically at the manilla folder sitting on the spot right in front of Zachariah. He reached out gracefully, the bald man staring at his finger as if it was loaded until it landed squarely on his folder and slid it across the glass top with a small squeak until it was in directly in front of himself.
"SucroCorp…" He read slowly, "Sounds… hearty."
He snapped the folder up quickly, "I'll take it."
Zachariah stared at him as if he wanted to break his knee and hide under the table and cry all at once.
"That's fine." Raphael said, voice sounding slightly more impatient than it had moments ago, "They have been requesting a senior partner's attentions for the past month."
Zarchariah looked as if the hide-and-sob option was getting more and more appealing.
"I want co-council." Nick said, drumming his fingers on the folder.
"Of course," Raphael said, "There's Rachael, and Virgil is available--"
"I'll take Sexy."
Raphael's head snapped up, "Excuse me?"
"I'll take Sammy."
There was a choking sound as the lounger seemed to have swallowed a chunk of sugar the wrong way.
Sam hardly heard it.
"I'm not familiar with a… Sammy." Raphael answered smoothly.
"He's new." Nick smiled.
Sam didn't know what to do, he looked down towards Balthazar for help but both he and the red haired girl were staring at him in a way that made him regret that decision.
This wasn't right. Things like this didn't happen to people. First days were full of training documents and get-to-know you chats and friendly talks with secretaries, not super-lawyers in disguise with molesting eye contact assaulting you in elevators. This really really wasn't how this was supposed to go. Maybe it wasn't how it was going. Maybe none of it was really happening to him and in a few minutes they would leave the room and all of this would go away and he'd have his normal, average first day exactly the way he'd wanted it.
"What do you think, Sammy?" The smooth voice sounded.
Sam's attention shot up, he was looking at him. Right at him. Along with everyone else.
"Want to straddle up?"
His mouth was still half hanging open, he was still staring, he was still gawking. And everyone, everyone was watching him now, half of them looking as terrified and confused as he felt, but no one else's cheeks were about fifty degrees hotter than they should have been, which was just stupid because he said saddle up, saddle up, and he was just a lawyer, just an amazing lawyer, a senior partner, asking for help. For his help.
"Yeah," Sam said swallowing hard and forcing a smile, "Yeah, sure, of course. Happy to help."
Nick winked back, slow and easy. Winked. Jesus...
Sam looked away and blinked, trying to pretend it hadn't happened.
"Well, if that's everything--" Raphael concluded, "I believe we can all return to business."
The room seemed to burst around the edges. The staff flew out of the doors, whispers and mutters reaching a near chaotic volume as the suited figures fell into rushing groups, talking back and forth faster than Sam's stunned brain could possibly follow.
Balathazar was suddenly surrounded by questioning voices and he was looking at Sam as if he planned to murder him. The red haired girl was shaking her head and biting at one nail as she glanced around wildly. Zachariah sat where he had been left, staring down at the blank table in front of him.
Nick was gone.
And suddenly Sam was alone, well alone except for the crowds of people staring at him and muttering in a way that was getting almost close to shouting--
"Hey," A voice sounded to his left.
He turned. Nothing.
A throat cleared.
Sam looked down.
"Oh, uh- hi."
"Yeah," The man answered, staring up at him with the lollipop stick poking out of his lips, "Look, I'm getting you a coffee. Alright?"
This was officially the most he had been hit on in the past year. What was happening? He was definitely throwing that conditioner away...
"Look man, I'm not--"
"Oh sweet, Mary," the short guy sighed dramatically, "Don't let it go to your head already. Coffee. Coffee. I don't want to butter your buns in the supply closet or anything."
Sam hardly had time to even try to deal with that metaphor before the man was striding out of the room. Sam took one last look at the conference room, saw Zachariah starting to stand up with fury rolling of of him in waves, and decided that maybe coffee wasn't such a bad idea.
He caught up to the man's lazy pace in two steps.
"So," The man said without turning, "I take it Sexy is your christian name,"
The man turned just enough to give him a pitying look.
"Gabe," He said turning back.
"Me: Gabe. You: Sam."
"Oh, yeah, right--"
'Gabe' turned a corner sharply and pushed open the first door, sliding into a wide open corner office that looked out massive glass windows across the park and into the distance. It's owner turned around the corners of the massive glass desk and plopped down into the chair behind it. Sam couldn't help but notice that the desk was covered in candy. There was a bag of M&Ms spilled out behind the keyboard, a glass jar full of tootsie pops (with the top most definitely shut, not open and welcoming like candy on a receptionist's desk). There were little silver bits of tinfoil across the table that Sam guessed had come from chocolate wrappers, and right across the front under his name plate was one of those massive comically multicolored lollys, like something munchkins from the Wizard of Oz would tote around. Sam almost smiled, because it had to be there just for show… at least he hoped so.
"What?" Gabe asked staring up at him, gesturing to the seat opposite, "Too tall to fit in the chair?"
"I--" Sam started, "I thought you said we were getting coffee?"
"It will be around in--" he checked the clock on the desk- not a watch man, Sam thought, most definitely not a watch man, "Exactly two minutes and fifty six seconds."
"Really?" Sam said.
"Trust me," Gabe answered, with what might have been a roll of his eyes.
He leaned back in his chair and locked a foot between him and the desk, staring at Sam with skeptical evaluation, but thankfully his attention didn't feel so penetrating Sam had the urge for a shower afterwards.
Sam actually managed to get his first good look at the man opposite of him as he sat. He was lazily wearing a well made navy suit with what Sam swore were little pink pinstripes. His tie was close enough to see now as well- at first it had just seemed a standard issue embroidered silk, but what easily could have been mistaken for little horses or something else perfectly normal, he now saw that the little white shapes were in fact sensually posed women.
"That's right," Sam said, attempting a smile and a general recovery of this day, "Sam Winchester."
The man pointed at his name plate sitting behind the lollipop.
Sam looked at it, not failing to notice the 'Senior Partner' underwriting.
"Gabriel…" The man read, staring at him.
Sam nodded carefully, "Mhmm…"
"Yes…?" Sam squinted.
The man opposite wilted just slightly around the shoulders but passed it off easily with raised eyebrows and that same obnoxious smile.
"Most people recognize it is all, not that it's a big deal or anything--"
"Oh!" Sam realized, trying to make up lost ground, "It's not- I went to school out west, so I'm not as familiar with the practices here."
Gabriel nodded carefully, "Mmm… buuuut you know him."
Gabriel gave him that look again.
Sam sighed and decided careful decisions might be something he could manage on his second day.
"Look," He said, "To be perfectly honest I hardly have any idea what's going on here. It's my first day, Balthazar hired me a little over a week ago- I show up today, there's some guy terrifying the receptionists and telling me to stow my bike in a back room and then he walks into some staff meeting and wants me to co-council and now you're telling me he's Nick Lucius- the Nick Lucius, and I just don't even know what's happening anymore--"
"The Nick Lucius," Gabriel said with a snort, muttering to one side, waving his hands in the air sarcastically; "Don't know me but he gets a 'the'--"
"It can't seriously be him?" Sam said suddenly, just having to know for certain, "Nick Lucius attorney for the Adams' case- the supreme court Adams' case, Nick Lucius of the 'free will' defense argument? The dead split - the argument that swayed infamously conservative Justice Mortimer into writing the majority opinion?"
Gabriel eyed him, "If I open up that briefcase I'm not going to find some composition book with his name written in pink felt tip all over the inside cover am I?"
Sam blushed and squeezed the case a little tighter to his chest, "No..."
He would find a copy of the closing remarks from that exact case, highlighted and labeled. It was something he'd started carrying around with him at school after he began on his dissertation and had never really stopped. It just didn't quite feel right to leave for the day without it…
But now it felt strange somehow. The voice that had spoken those words in his head for years, put forth those arguments, and humanized something so clearly and so perfectly that the justice system itself was pulled into question- that voice had been animated and enthusiastic, bold and brave, not the smooth gliding tones sounding altogether too penetrating and certainly a good deal too close to be properly considered comfortable.
The image he had crafted in his mind for years of the lawyer who (he would be lying if he denied it) had become one of his heroes was suddenly trying to force itself into the shape of an average blonde man with too sharp eyes cornering him in an elevator and he tried to stop that course of action before his brain combusted and leaked out his ears.
"--It can't really be him…" Sam managed, staring down into the swirling colors of the obscene lollipop lying on the desk.
Gabriel smiled slightly, "Ah, don't judge him too soon… he's had a rough year."
"Yeah," Sam said, looking back up, "What was that about?"
"Like I said," Gabriel continued, "Rough year."
There was a smart little knock against the glass of the door.
"Ah! Coffeeee," Gabriel sang as he sprang of his seat and across the floor, just as Sam managed to turn and look in the right direction.
Gabriel pulled open the door, "You don't have to knock Castiel, for Christ's sake."
"It is considered a professional courtesy." sounded a voice that was giving Sam sudden vivid flashbacks to his required field trip to maximum security.
He half expected to see someone tall as himself and four times his weight shove his way through the door and started when instead there came an understated wiry dark haired man with a slight shuffle to his steps and big blue eyes that looked like they belonged to Miss America, not this rather stubbly square jawed figure who seemed to be in his early thirties, speaking with a voice that sounded like it was made to proclaim the end of worlds not "would you like cream with that?"
The newcomer pushed a little cart into the room, laden with coffee supplies, muffins, cookies, and a small espresso machine. The entire thing was freakishly organized- even the cream cups were stacked neatly to one side and Sam couldn't help but hear the guy sigh as Gabe pushed his hand in to grab three, knocking the rest down into a little pile.
"Gabriel," He muttered, "You should really let me, it is my job--"
"No way, that's still a bit too weird," Gabriel said, snatching a double chocolate muffin, "Anyways, you never put enough sugar in mine."
"My personal concern for your health prevents me from doing so," He turned and looked at Sam, as if noticing him for the first time, "Hello."
"Hey," Sam said, standing. The man tilted his head a little to one side as he took in his height and Sam was starting to wondering if it was something in the water here that made them do that or--
Oh crap. How the hell had he not even noticed?
"Lucius!" He said suddenly.
The head tilted a little further.
"Ignore him," Gabriel muttered to the dark haired barista, "He's just imagining how it would look on monogrammed towels--"
"Gabriel Lucius?" Sam repeated, turning to stare at the name plate.
"Is he experiencing some form of confusion?" The coffee guy asked, glancing sideways at Gabriel who just shrugged his shoulders.
"You're related?" Sam asked spinning back.
"Yes." Said both of them at once.
Sam stared, "Wait- what?"
"We are related." The dark haired man said, shifting his head slightly in Gabriel's direction.
Gabriel mumbled something, spraying chocolate muffin crumbs onto the cart which the other in turn frowned at blankly.
"And you're both related to…"
"I'm going to save you some time here Sam," Gabe said, finally managing to swallow most of the muffin, "Most of the partners, Cassy here, handful of other associates: related."
"What, seriously?" Sam asked. Family firms weren't unusual, but still...
"Our father made questionable domestic decisions." Castiel said.
"You don't remember any of that over-sharing conversation we had do you?" Gabe asked him despairingly.
Sam tried to ignore it, "But, seriously, related? How?"
"Myself, Gabriel, Nicholas, and Michael are half brothers through our father, although Michael and Nicholas also share a mother- Raphael and Uriel are our second cousins, again on our father's side, while Anna and Balthazar are our first cousins, although it has been argued that he is twice removed and again connected through my mother's younger brother--"
"Okay- okay I think he gets it--" Gabriel broke in as soon as the straight faced man paused for breathe.
Sam opened his mouth to try and get a grip on this a little better but Gabriel had already turned back to his brother.
"Did you see him yet?" Gabriel asked, emptying a fourth sugar packet into his coffee.
"Yes," Castiel grumbled, "He found me this morning. It was… uncomfortable."
Gabriel snorted as if he thought that was the understatement of the year, "He didn't tell you he was coming?"
"No. He did not. I do not believe he informed anyone of his return, and if I were you I would be ensured of the legitimacy of his approval documentation."
"Yeah, pretty sure that's been taken care of already."
"Umm--" Sam started, unsure if he was still supposed to be in the room.
"You look like fresh hell--" Gabriel continued to his brother as he took another massive bite out of the muffin.
"I will admit to being slightly more fatigued than is usual."
Sam got the impression that Castiel was the sort of person who always looked somewhat exhausted but nevertheless…
"You should go home, give that bed-head a reason to be there."
"No," He said, as if suddenly realizing he had been spending more time here than he should, frantically tidying the mess his brother was making of his immaculate cart, "I have to start with the sandwiches, I hardly have enough time to prepare them properly as it is."
"Are you looking for help?" Sam heard himself say.
They turned to look at him in one motion, as if they'd forgotten he was even there at all.
"Pardon me?" the blue eyes asked.
"Sorry, I just--" Sam said, running a hand over the back of his neck, "It sounds like you could use some help.
"Know someone who looks cute in an apron?" Gabriel smiled.
Sam couldn't help laughing at image materializing in front of him and for a moment he forgot about all the other absurd things that had found their way into this morning.
"Yeah," He said, "I think I might."
Sam left the office with a fresh coffee and Castiel's business card in his pocket. He pulled the thing out to look at it again. Neat black letters read across the top "Castiel Lucius" and underneath in smaller ones "purveyor of various heated caffeinated beverages and other forms of sustenance by means of a wheeled trolley" and in even smaller: "to contact press the following numbers on your mobile or immobile telephonic device…"
Sam smiled and put the card back into his pocket as he followed the swaying shape of Gabriel's secretary down the halls.
"Here you go." She said idly, stopping in front of a fogged glass door.
"No," Sam smiled, hardly glancing at it, "I'm sorry, this is an office--"
"Yes," She said in a bored way, "Your office."
"No," Sam insisted, "I mean I'm sure you know this place much better than I do, but it's my first day, I just got out of law school, I think I'm supposed to be sharing with another new associate, I really don't think--"
The woman laid her freshly manicured finger under the name cut into the glass, "So you're not 'Sam Winchester'?"
"No… that's not-- That's impossible."
"Enjoy the office," The woman smiled bluntly and turned and strode off back down the hall.
Sam stared at his name for a minute, then a minute more. He wondered if there were such things as glass-cutters on call.
There was a small envelope taped to the outside of the door and he snatched it down and pulled it open. It was a check. He had requested an advance. Moving here hadn't been as easy as they'd originally made it sound and finding a place close enough to bike had been even worse and now that Dean was consuming carbohydrates like a swarm of locus, well, hell at least there was one thing going right with today.
He pulled the thing out to get a better look at the amount.
He looked again. And then very quickly stuffed it into his pocket and shoved open the office door.
The office wasn't quite as expansive as Gabriel's but he still stared for a moment at the clean, elegant space, window looking out into the city, a large desk… a large desk completely covered in stacks and stacks of papers.
Sam stepped closer gingerly. There was a pink post-it stuck to the top, scrawling, elegant handwriting splayed across it.
"Like the office?"
Sam swallowed and pulled the thing away. There was another one under it.
"I'll take a debriefing tomorrow (on the files)"
Sam felt his throat was half-heartedly trying to shut on it's own by the time he pulled that one away to reveal the one under that...
"Here's looking at you, Sammy."
Sam stared down at the black lettering for a moment before righting himself and turning and--
The scream stopped half way up his throat.
He was standing right there. Right. There.
Sam stumbled backwards and caught himself on the edge of the desk, knocking several folders off of it and he reached out to catch them but his big hand only knocked them aside and the papers flew free and spilled across the floor. He knelt down quickly and started scrambling to pull them back together, glancing up to make sure he wasn't going insane.
He was gone. Well, not gone, sitting through the glass wall between the offices talking on the phone with one leg tossed up on the desk. He wasn't looking at him. But he had been. He most definitely had been standing directly in front of the glass staring directly at him.
Sam shook his head and focused as hard as he possibly could on making sure each and every spilled paper made it back into the folder, ignoring the fact that his paycheck was three time what he had thought it would be, ignoring the fact that this office had apparently been picked exactly for him, ignoring the fact that it just happened to share a glass wall with his office, ignoring the lingering sensation that he was some kind of zoo animal… but then again he had certainly never stared at zoo animals like that. He had a feeling people who looked at animals like that were asked to please leave the zoo right away and encouraged never to come back again.
Sam finished pushing papers back into the folder, tapped it once on the floor, and stood up, most definitely not looking into the other office.
He pushed out his chair and sat. He leaned back a little. He leaned back a little more until finally, finally he was just out of eye-shot of the desk. He could still see a booted foot flicking back and forth slightly on the desk. He looked away. Look away to the massive stack of files looming in front of him. He picked up the first one. It looked like a health report.
Sam sighed, ran a hand through his hair, pulled his phone out of his pocket, and carefully typed out a text:
Hit send, took a deep breath, and started to read.