1. It's Sam, not Sammy
Sometimes, they call him "Samuel." Mostly it's because out of all of them, he studies so much harder than all of them. Works so much harder. He's got the grades to show for it, sure, but still. He's easy to tease because he laughs and shakes his head and doesn't get ruffled.
"Here's to Sammy!" Bruce shouts. It's Sam's 21st, and Jess (well, her parents' credit card, but whatever) are treating them all out to a 21st birthday celebration.
"To Sammy!" they all chorus, laughing because he's so not "Sammy." Jess squints at him, tries to see him as a "Sammy," because he's so big and tall and serious, and so not anybody's little boy.
She's the only person who sees his shoulders tense as soon as Bruce says "Sammy," the only one who sees the smile go tight and hard, stretched over his teeth. He drops the smile after taking a drink, staring into it and his hand slides into his pocket, where his phone is.
Jess hates his family at that minute. She always hates them on his behalf at times like this: his birthday, Christmas, summer or winter break, when Sam is the only one who stays on campus, whom other people invite home with them. Sam never accepts, and now they have their own place, so it's cool that he doesn't go home, but the fact that he doesn't have home, doesn't have anywhere to go...that pisses her off.
The fact that his hand lingers on his pocket over his phone on his birthday, waiting for a call that never ever comes. She's not sure he notices, but she does.
The party is fine after that. She slips her hand into his, and buys him more tequila and licks salt off his wrist and kisses him, long and dirty, and then they have birthday sex- which is really just a whole lot of drunken grinding and awkward humping, and they have a hard time getting anywhere because they keep laughing and falling off the bed.
But she has words with Bruce, and nobody ever calls him Sammy after that.
2. Ghost Hunters
"Dude, so fake," Abby scoffs. "And look, all the guys get picked on. I mean, are we presupposing here that the angry ghosts are all women? Doesn't it stand to reason that in prison the inmates were more likely to be male, and that as such their primary targets would be the quote/unquote weaker sex?"
Jess groans and throws popcorn at Abby. "Oh my god, shut up," she begs. "You are spoiling my serious freaked-out mojo here."
"They're just capitalizing on your-"
"No, seriously," Becky interrupts, waving her shoe threateningly. "I will beat you over the head about this."
They turn back to Ghost Hunters, watching the grainy night-vision footage. It's a thing, every week they all come over and watch the newest episode (even if it's a rerun), and because Jess and Sam's is the cleanest, and most likely to be stocked with real food and has no roommates, their place wins out, and the seven of them cluster into the living room with the lights out.
"Dude, shut up," Bruce snaps, leaning forward.
It's nice, because they all get into it, despite their better judgement and decisions to be aloof Stanford undergrads who are, let's face it, smarter than this shit.
Jason pulls out one of those EMF detectors, and Sam snorts. It's so shocking that Jess sort of twists to look at him. Usually Sam is wrapped up in this stuff, watching with a frown as though he gets what they're doing. He's usually more interested in the lore, annoyed that nobody does anything about the hauntings if they find one that seems legit. In fact, usually Becky threatens to throw her shoe at Sam, because Sam gets Eric going about backstories and tormented ghosts and how it's important to understand the ghosts because they can tell us something about ourselves and the human condition.
But right now Sam is watching the screen with what can only be described as derision, as Jason waves the EMF detector around. It's the same look that the geeks get when they see you using a normal calculator and trying to get it to make graphs- that pitying, "don't you know you're being stupid, use a different tool!" look. The thing that gets her though, right? Is that that look requires a certain amount of experience.
A chair moves, and she's jerked back to the screen, and when she glances back at him again he's got his normal absorbed face on.
She wonders if he noticed her noticing.
She tries to get him talking later- subtly, wondering out lout if the EMF detector would even work, how it even worked, but Sam, like everyone else, looked at Becky, who is the engineering undergrad, who shrugged and wanted to know how the fuck she should know.
Sam takes an intro English class his first semester. He really liked it, and probably would have made it his minor if the professor hadn't retired and the next one Sam'd had had been a total douchebag.
But in that class, they'd talked about the importance of writing letters as catharsis.
"It's communication," Sam had tried to explain to her. "LIke....some people leave voice messages and then delete them, so nobody ever hears it. Or, I don't know. Conversations when you're driving. But getting it out there is pretty important. I mean, you can't just have all that stuff bottled up. It'll make you crazy."
She'd wondered where he kept the letters. She never entertained the idea that he didn't write them.
When they moved in, she sometimes caught him writing. She could never say that he was writing a letter, not a paper, but sometimes...something in his face changed.
By the time they'd moved in she knew his mom was dead, his dad was an asshole, and that he had a brother. She had no idea if this brother was older or younger. She had no idea where he was, or what he was doing. She'd thought about finding him, contacting him, yelling at him about abandoning Sam.
She'd done one of those Google searches, where you click on those sponsored links and it's like the yellow pages, only not.
There are a lot of Winchesters out there, and she can't find any who match the very little information she has (last name, and that's about it- these things don't give helpful hints like family).
Still, there was this one day where Sam didn't come to bed, furiously typing at his laptop in the kitchen. He'd run off to the Library for his shift, and she'd opened it up. She was just curious. It wasn't like she thought that there were love letters, but she was so close to her parents, to her little sisters, that she couldn't...she didn't understand. She wanted to understand.
So she opened up the iBook Sam had scrimped and saved for, and opened the TextEdit file that was minimized.
I don't hate you. I think I hate him. I want to hate you. But I don't. It was so personal that she minimized it, shut the laptop, and got ready for classes really quickly. She was 27 minutes early to her first class, and felt like a huge dork.
She felt guilty all day, all week. Like that was something she just wasn't meant to see. Not now, not ever. Sam kept his privacy: guarded it fiercely in that. She wondered whether that letter was to his dad or his brother. She kept expecting him to know, to see.
But he didn't say anything, and she relaxed.
He wrote her letters. Little ones, or texted her throughout the day. It was nice, and she hoped that somehow being able to send her the letters made up for the ones he couldn't send.
So Stanford, and the area around it, it's pretty safe. And nobody's going to attack Sam, because it's a giant.
So when these five guys run at them, maybe a little high but, hello, with switchblades, she's so taken by surprise she's useless.
Not that she wouldn't be useless, because she's never gotten around to taking that self-defense class. She knows from Oprah that she should pee on whomever tries to rape her, and go for his eyes, but she bites her nails and she peed before they left the restaurant.
Sam grabs the first one by the wrist and sort of spin-throws him, elbowing a second in the face and punching a third. He somehow gets the fourth's knife and the guys sort of run away really fast.
He gets her home, talking soothingly, calm and sure.
"Come on, Jess, let's go. Into bed, okay? I'm right here."
He leaves her a note telling her he locked the door behind himself, don't worry, when she wakes up. It's not until she's blow-drying her hair that she realizes that that wasn't just a 6-foot something guy with a height advantage. That was some serious mojo. Sam knew what he was doing, and was used to doing it enough that he could get her home not freaked out: he knew how to handle people in shock. Her mind raced to figure out what the hell could have happened in his childhood to make him be okay with that. With grabbing a guy's knife and appearing to be willing to use it on him.
He always walks with a certain self-assurance, quiet- not a swagger like some guys, but easy long steps and his chin up.
She never thought that that confidence might honestly stem from the fact that he can beat the tar out of someone.
She's not sure if she's freaked or reassured.
Given the circumstances and Becky and Abby's reactions ("Oh my god, really? That's awesome" from Becky and "Seriously, Jess? That's so Harlequin Romance Heroine of you. I can't know you anymore" from Abby), she decides to be okay with it.
She also signs up for that self-defense class.
5. Dad's on a hunting trip
The brother turns out to be older. He calls him "Sammy."
Sam is tight and nervous and reluctant and happy all at once.
His brother (asshole!) doesn't seem to notice.
Sam spends a lot of time trying to reassure her as he packs. She'd find it a lot more reassuring if it wasn't so obvious that he was trying to convince himself that it was all going to be okay.
His brother (asshole!) gave him a black eye during that stupid fight. Who the hell sneaks into someone's house?
How the hell did he pick the locks?
She tells Sam he should go, because she thinks he needs to. Because she realizes that the letter was written to his brother. Because she wants him to stop fingering his phone on his birthday, waiting for the call that never comes.
She spends the next few days fingering her phone. She realizes, as they all sit down for Ghost Hunters, that she's waiting for the texts, for the call that doesn't come.
She wonders if it's something to do with his family, that they never call. She shuts off the phone for a whole hour.
Of course it's that hour that he finally calls. He leaves a message: "Hey, it's me, you're probably watching Ghost Hunters. I'm in a crappy hotel room, missing you." There's water running in the background, and his brother is singing "Smoke on the Water," and Sam just sounds tired.
"I'll try you back tomorrow. Love you."
Jess lays awake in bed, turning a few things over. They share a motel room, rather than getting separate. She can see her sisters and her doing the same, but she figured it was different with guys. She also doesn't sing Deep Purple songs to annoy her sisters, so there's that.
She wonders if Dean was this thing that Sam and his dad fought over, like she and her dad had fought for her mom's attention. Dean was the middle man, after all- he's older than Sam. She wonders if Sam gave up, or lost. If Sam expected Dean to put up some sort of fight or something, about Sam going away to Stanford, and Dean didn't.
She wants to understand all of it, the relationship, the dynamics, because there are strange things about Sam, little bits of the mystery wrapped in an enigma that is Sam Winchester that she suspects would become clear if she only understood his family.
It didn't matter before, not so much, not when they were out of the picture. But she sees she and Sam heading for marriage, and...she doesn't want her husband dropping his life because his brother calls.
It's not fair to Sam.
She resolves to talk to him about it when he gets home- those kinds of conversations can't be had over the phone.