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True, We've Demolished a Thing or Two

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Sam hates his suitemates. Up until this semester, he'd been lucky to get sane people he actually got along with. This semester, he has a guy who treats bad cologne like a replacement for a shower, one who shaves his head in the kitchen, and two who are so obnoxious that Sam has slept in the library to avoid having to be near them.

Apparently, he cashed in all his karma points last semester when he met Jess. Not that he isn't completely, ridiculously, embarrassingly head over heels for her. It's just that Rebecca is clearly getting tired of seeing his face every time she wakes up, and Liz might stab him if he accidentally walks into the bathroom while she's in the shower one more time.

Sam hates being That Guy. The one who mooches off his girlfriend and who everyone who knows her hates. But apartments want to know where Sam has lived for the last seven years, and the problem with being a hunter is that honesty means a phone book of motels across the country. Pastor Jim's address is out because Blue Earth is on an FBI watch list and that is a can of worms that Sam would really not like to open. He tried Bobby's, but he lost a $125 application fee with that—he doesn't really know why for sure, but he thinks Bobby always answering his home line with "Singer Salvage" probably killed it for him.

So getting a place is not really an option for him, unless he and Jess move in together.

Not that that's why he wants to move in with her. Sam loves Jess in a way he's never loved anyone else but Dean, and when he pictures his future she's in it. Not having to be near his suitemates would just be a bonus.

Sam hasn't exactly asked Jess to move in with him yet, though. He's pretty sure she would say yes, even though she hasn't told her mom about him—which is understandable because if anyone knows what overprotective family is like, it's Sam Winchester. It's just that Sam has not really discovered the graceful way to ask Jess to take a big step like moving in together and then tell her everything has to be put in her name.

He wants to prove that he's worth it, though. Worth telling her mom about, and worth all the time with him that she could be studying, and worth all the trouble that he is pretty much undoubtedly causing her with her roommates.

He just hasn't quite figured out how to prove it yet.

"This is the dumbest hunt I've ever been on," John says.

"Not any dumber than the kid who tried to summon unicorns for his little sister to play with," Bobby says.

"It's a rabbit with a human dick. And antlers. And wings. And fangs. And three of us can't kill it."

"That waitress is never going to call me back," Dean complains. It was surprisingly hard to talk her into getting topless in the middle of the woods—horror movies don't know anything—and that was before she got molested by a rabbit.

"The lore said a topless woman was supposed to stun it into submission," John says for the fifth time that night.

"Yeah, after it jizzed all over her chest, maybe." Dean can't keep the disappointed tone out of his voice. Most of his favorite pornos just got ruined for him; he's allowed to be a little upset.

"Stop crying. You got it easy." John nudges the front leg of Dean's chair, making him wobble where he was balancing on the back legs. Dean flails around and drops back onto all four legs.

"I had to pull that thing off of her! No one said anything about actual human dicks being involved when I signed up for this hunt!"

"Would you rather be hunting a popobawa?" Bobby asks. Dean might not have any idea what the hell a popobawa is, but he knows Bobby's "you damn fool idgit" voice.

John cuts him off. "Hey, I still have to split a room with the kid tonight. Don't give him nightmares."

"I'm not five," Dean protests.

John just looks at Dean for a moment before he turns to Bobby and asks, "What other lore is there on this thing?"

"Wolpertiger," Dean adds.

"Wolpertinger," Bobby corrects. "And everything I have says the same thing. Half-naked women dancing in the forest should've stunned it. Once you bag it, it's supposed to be easy to kill."

"Wait," Dean says. "Was she supposed to be dancing?"

"Bare breasts and 'in the woods' were the only requirements," John says. "But that clearly doesn't work."

"I don't know what to tell you, Winchester," Bobby starts. Last names are coming out. Shit just got real. "This newfangled hunting thing threw me for a loop. I guess it's a good thing I came to you for help, since you have all these books and all this knowledge of things that go chomp in the night."

Dean is not sticking around for this. And, unlike when Sam and Dad would pick fights with each other, he can leave.

"I'm getting burgers," he says, safe in the knowledge that they can't can hear him over each other, and high-tails it out towards the nearest diner.

Dean's got a piece of meatloaf chicken surprise pie—which has neither chicken nor meatloaf in it, to Dean's somewhat thankful and genuine surprise—half devoured when Bobby's ringtone comes blaring out of Dean's pocket. He's only eighty percent sure that Bobby's not calling to tell Dean that John needs buckshot picked out of him again.

"You need to stop shooting each other," Dean says, picking up the phone.

"Hello to you, too, Miss Manners."

"It's Mrs. Manners now. I finally convinced the bastard to marry me."

"Congratulations," Bobby tells him. He doesn't sound very sincere, but Dean will forgive him. After all, he can still hear John griping in the background, and that means he doesn't need to come back and play nursemaid. "Grab a pen. You're going on a book run."

"A book run? What the fuck does that mean?"

"That means you grab a damn pen before I smack the smartass out of you."

Dean grabs a pen out of his pocket and a gas receipt out of another pocket to write on. "Okay, Bobby, shoot."

"Don't tempt me."

"Ha ha. Where am I going?"

"Texas. Gun Barrel City, to be specific."

"Does this mean I'm off the hunt?" Dean asks. He doesn't want to be kicked off the hunt, but this is a really fucking weird hunt, and Dean is still a little traumatized from accidentally touching rabbit dick.

"You should be so lucky. There's a hunter by the name of Barbara Moore over in Gun Barrel City who has a book on the wolpertinger. It's straight from Germany, so it should be a little more reliable than what I have."

"Why can't she just read it to you over the phone?"

"Because she doesn't read Russian."

"I thought it was German?"

"It's German written in Russian. You gonna keep asking questions, or are you gonna do your job?"

"I think I wanna ask some more questions," Dean says. Bobby hangs up on him, though, so Dean may never learn why the sky is blue.

Barbara Moore is smoking hot. Not just hot for a hunter or hot for someone who is probably his dad's age, but hot for a person on the planet.

Dean wants to toss a sleeping bag on the front lawn of her weirdly-normal house and refuse to leave until she starts taking him seriously. He gives her all his best lines, his most charming grin, everything. She refuses to call him anything but "Bobby Sent Me" and tells him that she's above errand boys. Even the way she dismisses him is hot.

"My daughter, who is probably as young as you, has the book with her at school," she tells him.

Dean gives her his best grin—the big, wide one that gets him phone numbers on the back of his bill—and relaxes back onto the couch, arms stretched along the back. "Well, I know a way or two we can kill time until she gets back. Can I call you 'Babs'?"

"You can try."

Bobby fucking laughs at him, the traitor. He laughs so hard and so long that the next voice Dean hears belongs to his dad. "How bad did it go?"

"I don't wanna talk about it," Dean tells him.

"That bad, huh?"

"Her kid's got the book with her at school. Apparently, she's trying to set up shop as a hotter, younger Bobby for the West Coast."

"West Coast?" Dad asks.

"Yeah," Dean coughs. "Somewhere over in California. I thought maybe, since it'll probably take a while to find someone who can read German in Russian or whatever, that I'd catch a Lakers game or something." There's no answer on the other end of the line, and a nervous laugh escapes before Dean can catch it. "You know, maybe con myself a seat next to my man Jack, live the high life for a little while. Just a couple of days. Then I'd be back with the book—probably still before you two could find someone who could read it, anyway."

There's no response on the other end of the line for what feels like a really long time.

Then, Dean hears his dad let out a long sigh. "Don't let Sammy catch you spying on him."

Dean is not a fan of surprises.

Well, that's not true. He likes surprise sex. And when the waitress who has been ignoring your flirting gives you free pie after you trip the douchebag who stiffed her on a tip.

And when the waitress points you in the direction of the hot, tall waiter who really is up for anything. But that one probably falls into the surprise sex category.

Okay, so maybe Dean is a fan of surprises. Just not when it comes to hunts. Surprises on hunts are a bad thing and usually end with trips to hospitals or trying to sew up a hole in your own ass with fishing line and a mirror. Dad still won't let him forget about that one.

Needless to say, when Dean knocks on Babs's daughter's door, he is not expecting a surprise.

And yet. The last thing he expects to see is Sammy open the door. His Sammy. Who, as of Dad's last Totally Not A Spying Trip, lives on the other side of this ridiculously fucking huge campus and never leaves except to go to classes.

"What are you doing here?" they ask each other at the same time.

"You don't live here," Dean tells Sam.

"What are you doing here?" Sam asks him again, glancing nervously behind himself.

"I asked you first," Dean says.

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"I'm not doing this with you, Dean. What do you want?"

Dean lets out a nervous laugh and scratches the back of his head before he can stop himself. "Well. This is awkward." Sam's only response is a glare. "I was supposed to be somewhere else," he admits. "And I guess I may have possibly—accidentally—swapped the addresses around. Subliminally. Or some shit like that." Sam is still just glaring at Dean. "Would you fucking say something, Sammy?"

"It's Sam."

Dean wants to call him a little bitch, but he's pretty sure he can't take the face Sam would make at him if he did. Lucky for Dean, before he can even attempt to talk his way out of this, a hot chick elbows Sam out of her way. She says something that Dean cannot focus on because she's his height with blonde curls and a rack Dean would pay his poker money to see in a bikini top. Or no top.

Sam clears his throat, and Dean—who really was not staring directly at her chest—finally joins the conversation again with an intelligent, "What?"

"Put my girlfriend's clothes back on before you talk," Sam snaps.

"There is no way that is your girlfriend." When the hell did Sam learn how to talk to hot girls?

"I'm not a 'that,' thank you," Sam's insanely gorgeous girlfriend says. She looks less than impressed with Dean, and the brain that shows she has knocks her even higher up on his rating scale.

"You are galaxies and light-years out of my brother's league," Dean tells her. He should probably stop being creepy, but he can't take his eyes off the moles on her neck or the ink peeking out of the sleeve of her shirt.

And, okay, that look she just gave him was a little more "I'm going to call the police on you" than "Please take me," but, honestly, he pretty much deserved it. "It was awesome seeing you, Sammy," Dean says honestly. "And great meeting you... Sam's girlfriend."

"Jess," she says with a forced smile on her face.

There's a half a beat of awkward silence where Dean can't make himself say anything. That name and this address are too much of a coincidence. "Is that short for 'Jessica'?" Dean asks her.

Sam looks confused. "What else could it possibly be short for?"

"Is your mom a really hot brunette named Babs?" Dean continues. He doesn't even need to hear the answer, though, because the look on her face alone—hell, just her face—tells him everything he needs to know.

"Oh, God, Dean." Sam winces. "Please tell me you didn't sleep with my girlfriend's mom."

"Give me some credit," Dean scoffs, ignoring the part where he attempted to do just that. Denial is Dean's friend. He can even do things like deny the fact that when Sam said he hated hunting, he apparently meant that he only hated it when he was with his family. He clears his throat and goes straight in for the punch. "I'm here for some Kinderwolfenschnitzle book or something."

"What?" Jess asks him. She looks pretty much exactly as awkward as Sam does at the moment, with a side order of uncomfortable.

"I don't fucking know the name of it," Dean admits, irritated. "It's a German book. Written in Russian? From your mom? Any of this ringing your bells?"

Sam takes a step forward, placing himself between Dean and Jess like Dean's going to attack her or something. Because Dean's life couldn't possibly get worse. "Dean," he starts, trying to walk Dean away from the door.

"No," Dean says, yanking his arm out of Sam's grip. "Listen, as bad as you don't want me here, I wanna not be here about a million times worse." Hunting was never the problem. He should have known it. It's one thing to know Sam doesn't want anything to do with him or Dad anymore, but it's another to have it proven and shoved in his face. "But Bobby needs this book, so just give it to me, and you'll never have to see me again. I'll even FedEx it back here."

"Bobby Singer?" Jess asks, her body strung tight like a bow.

Sam whirls around. "How do you know Bobby Singer?"

"How do you know Bobby Singer?" Jess asks right back.

"Wait, wait," Sam says, rubbing his forehead. "So... all those hunts I've been finding, everything I handed over to Bobby—every time that he said he had a hunter in the area, he meant you?"

Jess has a hand over her mouth, trying to stifle her laughter. It's half nervous and half hysterical, and if Sam's brain weren't falling apart, he would be rubbing her back and trying to get her to breathe along with him. "I always figured you were some hunter who snapped and got locked up in a mental hospital."

"I might be," Sam says. It's a little muffled because his hands are currently covering his face.

"Who knows anything anymore, in this crazy world we live in?"

"Shut up, Dean!" Sam begs from behind his hands.

"You really didn't know?" Dean asks, sprawled out on the couch and looking back and forth between Sam and Jess. It's clearly forced, even for Dean, and it hurts Sam to be treated like an outsider. Like someone who doesn't know every single one of Dean's nervous tics and knuckle cracks.

Sam drops his hands and stares at his brother. "Does this look like the face of someone who knew he was trying to kill his girlfriend, Dean?"

"I don't know, man," Dean scoffs, holding his hands up in surrender. It's big and fake, like he's some cartoon character or something, and it makes something inside Sam burn red-hot with rage out of nowhere. "Your face looks pretty fucked up most of the time."

"Why are you such a jerk?" Sam asks. Sam can hear the hurt in his own voice, and he hates how obvious it feels. It's like there's this giant neon sign hanging over his head that just keeps flashing and won't turn off or come unplugged.

But that doesn't even stop Dean from grinning, big and wide and so ridiculously fake that Sam has no idea how anyone is ever fooled by it. "Because you're a total bitch."

"Uh, excuse me," Jess interrupts. Sam has no idea if she actually has something to say or can see the flashing lights over his head, but either way, he loves her even more now than he did five minutes ago.

When she manages to talk again, she still has a slightly hysterical undertone to her voice, and the rest of it is so offended that Sam knows nothing good is coming his way. "I'm sorry to break up your little tea party here, but you did not try to kill me. I get more hurt tripping over your size dinosaur shoes at midnight than I do salting some bones two hours away."

Sam laughs in spite of himself, and the tangled ball of fear and anger in his stomach loosens a little.

"You need a tampon, Sammy?" Dean asks in a voice much more deadpan than Sam thought possible.

"Okay, you know what?" Jess breaks in, putting herself in front of Sam. "My boyfriend and I need to talk, so you need to go now."

"Hey, I still need that book."

Jess's voice is icy. "Then you can come back and get it in the morning."

"You know," Dean starts. "If you ever wanna move up in the food chain—"

"Leave right now, and I won't sic PETA on your jacket."

"So," Jess starts.

"So," Sam responds.

It's the most they talk for the next day and a half.

Sam's almost asleep when he feels the bed shift and Jess moving closer to him.

They haven't been fighting, exactly. Just sort of avoiding each other. Sam makes sure to be out the door in the morning before Jess is awake, and he makes sure he's at least pretending to try to sleep when she comes out of the shower at night.

Maybe Sam's been doing more of the avoiding. But he doesn't want to fight, and he's learned that the best way to avoid that is to not give himself the opportunity to open his mouth and start one.

"You know," Jess says, running her fingers down his arm. "When we first met, I thought you were you."

"What?" Sam asks. He isn't that tired, but his brain keeps giving him an error message when he tries to process her sentence.

"Winchester. I've heard of you guys. When we first met, you said it was like the gun and you weren't related. So I thought you were either John Winchester's kid or some other hunter who shared a last name but wasn't one of those Winchesters."

"Oh," Sam says. He doesn't really know what to say to that. There aren't a ton of hunters out there, really. But it's still strange to realize people he doesn't know have heard of him. "I meant the actual gun makers. You know, like the Winchester Mystery House?"

Jess smiles at him, and he's missed that smile over the last two days. "Yeah, I kind of figured that out eventually."

Sam can't help it; he smiles back. "I kind of wondered about some things that make more sense now."

"Yeah?" Jess asks, propping herself up on her elbow and staring down at Sam. "Like what?"

"Like how you never freaked out over any of my scars, for one."

"You don't have many really bad ones."

"Yeah," Sam says. "But I have a lot of small ones. That can look worse than a couple of big scars."

"The car accident when you were little; that totally didn't happen, did it?"

"Not really," he admits.

Jess smiles and leans down, kissing him lightly. "It's a pretty good cover," she tells him.

"Lots of practice."

Jess slides her hand into his and squeezes it once, just briefly. "Were you ever gonna tell me?"

"Were you?" Sam asks.

Jess is silent for a moment, and Sam just watches her face as she thinks. "At some point, yeah," she says. "I mean, I'd like to think I would've told you before you had to find out."

"But it doesn't really work like that," Sam smiles wryly. He's never told anyone on purpose—not anyone who wasn't in immediate danger, anyway. "I don't think I would have ever said anything."

"You really don't like hunting at all, do you?" Jess asks him, running a thumb along the back of his hand.

"I was always so scared growing up, you know?" Sam says, sliding his hand into hers. "I was afraid that Dad would never come back or that something would get us while he was gone or while we were at school. And then I started getting brought on the hunts, and I was terrified that I wasn't fast enough or smart enough, or that I was too loud or would do something and get Dean or Dad killed, or both of them. I haven't really felt safe since I was, like, eight."

"But you saved people, Sam," she tells him, squeezing his hand again. "There are so many people out there who are alive today because of people like us—because of your family."

"Why do we have to be the ones to save them, though?"

"Because they don't know any better," Jess tells him. "Liz, Becca, Zach, Brady—people like them don't know to be afraid of the dark or stray animals. They think it's all just stories to scare kids. We know better, so it's up to us to protect them."

Sam knows she's right. He does. It's the same thing Dad used to bark at him and the same thing Dean used to whisper to him in the backseat when they were skipping town in the middle of the night yet again. It doesn't make it any easier, though, and he knows he isn't as good as any of them because he'd rather be able to pretend he doesn't know about the girl in his art history class with the butterfly tattoo behind her ear who got bitten by her ex, who Sam knows is now a dead werewolf.

He'd rather pretend he doesn't know that Jess will probably have to kill her soon.

"Tell me something about you," he says instead.

"Like what?"

"I don't know. Something I don't already know."

"Um, I..." Jess trails off. She gets this little crinkle in her forehead that Sam loves, and her laugh is tinged with self-consciousness. "I can't think of anything! You know I'm bad at this; it's why no one plays truth or dare with me!"

"No." Sam laughs. "No one plays truth or dare with you because you always dare people to get naked."

"That's the point of the game, Sam. You're supposed to get everyone naked and make out with each other during truth or dare. That's what the internet says, Sam, and the internet wouldn't lie to me."

"Your sleepovers must have been pretty special when you were a kid," he jokes.

"I'll have you know that my sleepovers were legendary," she tells him proudly. "They were legendary at school. Mom would order pizzas, and we'd all get to make sundaes, and we would pull the cushions off the couch and jump on them until Mom made us stop."

Sam can't fathom that. "Your mom let you have people over?"

"Well, yeah," Jess says like it's the most obvious thing on the planet. "She never let me sleep over at other people's houses, so we just had them all at my house. All my friends' parents loved her because any time anyone wanted to have a slumber party for their birthday or anything, she would always volunteer our house. It was protected, you know? Runes and wards and salt and everything."

Dad never would have allowed anything even sort of like that. "You lived in the same house for a while?" Sam asks.

"Since I was a baby, yeah."

"How does—I thought your mom hunted?"

"Well, yeah, but Texas is pretty big. There are a lot of hunts around there. And she'd travel sometimes, too. I always liked that the most because I thought it was so cool to be in a hotel and get to swim in a pool that was indoors and all that."

"That is completely foreign to me," he admits. They've never stayed anywhere with an indoor pool, and usually the only good thing about a motel over a house or an apartment was that motels have electricity. "I don't think I've ever lived in one place longer than maybe five or six months? And usually less than that."

"Really?" Jess asks him.


"Well," she tells him, fitting herself against his side. "You've been here for almost three years. So now you have a new record."

Sam just hums in response. They didn't really settle anything, and their conversation is far from over, but Jess seems ready to put it to bed for the night, so to speak.

Sleep does not come easy for Sam.

Dean just wants to sleep. He isn't getting too old for this—even though he guesses twenty years is a long time in any line of work—but it's been sixty-some odd hours since he's slept because this death trap of an abandoned house has a tag team of ghosts killing wandering morons around the clock. Dean barely has time to eat while researching, much less sleep. Fifteen and twenty minutes here and there are enough to keep him alive, but not enough to keep him from hating everything about the world right now.

And it's all Sam's fault, too. If that stupid fucker weren't off in the land of alligator shirts and shitty foreign cars, Dean wouldn't have to be doing all this shit on his own. Sam's better at researching, anyway. Dean's not bad at it, but he hates it, so it takes fucking forever because he keeps getting bored. Sam's always had a creepy hard-on for this kind of thing, so it takes him twenty minutes to find out what Dean usually spends three hours on.

And, you know, doing all this shit with a cracked rib or three sure isn't helping. But, again, that's all Sam's fault. If Sam were there with him, Dean wouldn't have to worry about watching his own back or getting blindsided by the ghosts pulling a shift change early and throwing a fucking fireplace at him.

It's been two fucking years since he's hunted with Sam, but he's exhausted and only barely functioning and he can't think, and that's why, when two dozen bricks get thrown at him, Dean turns his back on them and the ghost throwing them to try and protect someone who is on the other side of the country.

Jess really likes being able to talk to Sam about hunts.

She never really...

She's never had anything like that before. It's different than hunting with Mom and coming back and joking about it. When Jess gets thrown hard enough for her ribs to hurt, she doesn't have to lie about it now.

She can come back to the apartment and—assuming Sam's still there, which isn't really a big leap lately—and take a shower and lie in bed with Sam while he gives her a back massage.

Jess can complain about how fucking much she hates libraries some days, and that she dreads any time she has to dig a grave because her hamstrings are always shot for days after, no matter how much she stretches first.

It's nice. It's really, really nice.

Hunting has always been a big part of her life, but she never thought that it had anything to do with her relationships. But now that Sam knows? Jess realizes just how much she was holding back before and just how much more amazing it is without secrets between them.

Not to mention, it's incredibly useful to have someone who can work a needle and thread when you've just kicked your way through a windshield and brought half of it back in your foot.

Not that Jess has done that.

But, seriously, Sam is fucking amazing with a needle. The stitches are small, close together, and so straight that she'd swear he was pre-med if she didn't know any better. She tells him as much, and his response is a smile so obviously fake that it hurts right in the pit of her stomach.

"Practice makes perfect, right? I've got nearly ten years of pretty regular practice stitching up holes and gashes and ripped stitches," he tells her, cleaning around the neat row in her foot.

"Ten years?" Jess asks him, swallowing back the images of an eight-year-old Sam sliding a needle through someone's skin.

"Dean can't really keep a steady hand when he's freaking out. And he squirms. A lot, really. He's never really been good with sitting still."

Sam's still looking at her foot, giving his work a fifth-over that it doesn't really need. She wants few things more right now than to reach over and hug him, but he's still got a needle in his hand, and his body language is screaming "don't touch me."

Jess wiggles her toes at him—and, ow, that was a bad idea because it really does kind of hurt. It might be worth the pain, though, because Sam snorts out a little laugh, and when he finally looks up at her, she can see a hint of those dimples she loves so much.

Sam just does not get his dreams anymore.

It's Dean's fault. It must be. All it took was him showing up, and Sam's dreams went from the standard weirdness—Brady on a bed with rope tied around his wrists and early 90s rap music playing from some part of Sam's brain that apparently paid more attention to random radios than he thought—to Jess and Dean running down a beach from what may or may not have been giant crabs.

With machetes. While chasing another giant crab.

Sam doesn't need one of those stupid dream interpretation books Zach keeps trying to force him to borrow to know that the dream means he's worried about Jess and Dean hunting. Common sense tells him that. Logic tells him that. The way he almost pisses the bed when his phone rings at two in the morning and he's sure it's someone calling him to ID Dean or Jess's body at the morgue tells him that.

But the giant two-story crabs make no sense.

Sam's brain cannot fucking deal with this.

He's always had a vivid imagination and has never really been somebody who could be confused for an optimist—too concerned with making sure he was always prepared for anything.

Okay, so he's a fucking weirdo creep who follows his girlfriend in case she gets hurt or needs backup or saving. He gets it. He knows he's a stalker and has control issues.

And he's going to talk to Jess about it. Honestly.

Becca just needs to actually leave the fucking apartment so he can be alone with Jess.

Except that when Becca finally leaves, Liz is home.

Liz doesn't hate Sam. She doesn't. But she probably would start plotting his doom if he told her to get the fuck out like he wants to.

Not that it's personal or anything. But Sam had to stitch up his girlfriend's shin the other night, and that is a conversation that he wants to have with his girlfriend. A conversation he can't have unless they're alone.

Well. Alone and in the living room. Because Jess is not exactly a fan of clothing, so when they're alone and in her room, Sam has an incredibly hot, naked girlfriend in front of him. Intelligent conversations in general are not all that frequent, and ones that might make Jess angry enough to put clothes back on and leave don't make it anywhere near the conscious part of Sam's mind.

And then.

Becca is gone at her boyfriend's.

Liz and her girlfriend are visiting Liz's cousins for the weekend down near Berkeley.

And then Zach shows up, and Sam can't really turn him away because his girlfriend just dumped him.

Sam can take a hint. He knows a sign when he sees one, and he just stops trying to force the talk because that is clearly not working for him.

Same dream, different... something.

It's a forest instead of a beach. And instead of giant crabs, it's something he can't see that's whispering things, and Dean and Jess are—

It's him being afraid of them hunting again.

...And maybe a little bit of wish fulfillment.

It's understandable, though. He loves Jess so much that it makes him physically ill to think about her getting hurt. He thinks of her when he goes to sleep, and when he wakes up, and when he's buying lunch and trying to decide between the carne asada fries she craves at least once a week and the deep fried chimichanga Dean would probably jerk off to in the dining hall.

And Sam cannot actually contemplate his existence without Dean. It terrifies him to his very core to think about being in a world where Dean isn't.

And Dean and Jess are both just so utterly mind-numbingly really, really, ridiculously good looking that it makes sense that he would dream about them together. It's not like it's the first time he's ever dreamed about it, either. Just the first time it was so detailed.

He could see the scrape of Jess's teeth over Dean's neck and the way Dean's ridiculously manicured nails dug into the back of Jess's jeans as he hitched her legs up around his waist. Shimmery flecks of gold-tinged bark flaked off into Jess's hair as she rolled her head, back arching off the tree.

It's an unbearably hot dream, and Sam can't even make himself feel too guilty about the awesome morning sex it causes, even though it almost made them both late for class.

And then fate—or Jess's stomach—smiles upon Sam, and Jess gets a taste for something sweet and demands they go "forage for food." She's always been a lot like Dean when it comes to spontaneity. And food.

"We need to talk about this," Sam tells her after their waitress brings out the last of their food. IHOP might not really be the best place for this discussion, but Liz and Becca seem to have practically made it a point to never be gone at the same time anymore, and he can't hold it in any longer.

"There's nothing to talk about, Sam," Jess tells him, cutting up her chocolate chip pancake with her fork.

"Yeah, there really is." Sam isn't eating. He hates breakfast for dinner, and pancakes still make him a little nauseous sometimes. There's a bowl of baked potato soup mocking him next to a pile of over-sweet food that he ordered because he could.

"I hunt; you don't." Jess drowns a bite of chocolate chip pancake in her strawberry syrup and leaves the bottom half stuck to her plate when she scoops it up. "I don't understand why this is such a big deal to you."

"It's not just that I don't hunt, Jess," Sam tells her. "I left my family because of this. I can't live like that." It's the most honest he's ever been with her.

"I'm not asking you to start hunting again." She chops off a chunk of sausage and scrapes up the pancake bit with it, all the while never taking her eyes off the plate. Dean never had to look at his food to massacre it in disgustingly creative ways.

Sam is aware that he's being pedantic. Or stupid. Probably more on the stupid side.

"I can't let you hunt alone," Sam says. He isn't begging, but he's close to it.

Her voice, when she speaks, could probably stop Sam's dad in his tracks. "Let me?"

"Not like that," he says in a rush. "It's not because you're a girl—woman—"

"Don't," Jess says. "Don't do that. This is not a conversation about how you feel guilty because you have a dick. This is about how you feel guilty for every paper-cut I've ever had because you could have prevented it if only you'd been there to turn the pages for me. "

"I just—I can't—" Sam's floundering. He doesn't want to be his dad, doesn't want it to be his way or the highway, but he left the only things in his life that matter because of this. "I can't just sit there and wonder if you're gonna come back or if you're bleeding to death somewhere and I don't know. I spent my whole life terrified that I was suddenly gonna be an orphan or an only child or both. I can't stand the thought of you out there alone with nobody watching your back."

"I don't need anyone to watch my back," she tells him. She's abandoned her food to glare at him.

"Everybody needs someone to watch their back, Jess," he says. "Even my dad doesn't hunt alone unless he has to."

"If you start hunting again because of me, we aren't going to last," Jess says. "You'll resent me for the rest of your life, and I can't... I can't do that."

Sam wants to say that he won't resent her, that he'll love her forever. But he knows that loving someone doesn't mean you like them or that you can bear to be in the same room with them for more than a few minutes at a time.

"I love you," he tells her.

"I love you, too," she says. "But I can't give up hunting. I don't want to. I like helping people, and the nearest hunter is my mom's friend's friend, and he's four hours north of us. I can't just let people die because you think I can't take care of myself."

"That's not it," he tells her, begging her to understand. He doesn't want to talk about it. This is his worst fear. Worse than clowns or curses or anything else, and just trying to put it into words feels like he's jinxing everyone he knows. "You could be the perfect hunter, Jess, but if you don't have someone watching your back, all it takes is a second werewolf you weren't expecting or a bitchy ghost, and you don't get to come home again."

"What do you want?" Jess asks. She's angry. Her eyes are welling up, and Sam knows she's not that kind of emotional. She doesn't cry when she's sad, only when she's so angry that she can hardly think straight. "Do you want to hire a babysitter to watch me on hunts?"

"There has to be some kind of middle-ground, right? I mean, this can't be it." Sam doesn't want it to be. He won't let it.

"This is what I do, Sam," Jess pleads. "You're asking me to give this up for you."

"I'm not," he says. He would love if she gave up hunting, he really would, but he's not trying to give her an ultimatum. He's not his dad. "I wouldn't do that to you. I just... there's a way to fix this. There has to be. We just, we need to find it."

"I don't need a babysitter," she tells him, wiping the tears away.

"A partner isn't a babysitter," he says.

"I don't need a partner, either."

"Everyone needs a partner, Jess," he insists. "I bet even your mom didn't hunt alone all the time."

Jess is still mad, but after a moment, she relents. "I'll think about it, okay?"

It's not ideal, but he'll settle for it for now.

"It's three o'clock in the morning, Sam," Dean growls into his phone when he picks it up.

"It's two in the afternoon," Sam tells him. "And you sound like you're drunk. Are you drunk this early already?"

"You use too many words," Dean grumbles. Fucking Vegas. Their casinos always fuck with his internal clock. "Wait. Sam? Why are you calling?" Not that Dean isn't happy to hear from his brother, but it isn't exactly something he expected any time soon.

"I was wondering if you wanted to—okay, hear me out," Sam fumbles. "Jess doesn't want to stop hunting, right?"

"That's a shocker," Dean says, pushing himself out of bed and trying to find his underwear. Sam never did understand people who liked hunting.

"Shut up. She wants to keep hunting but, like. Okay, she's not completely inept or anything but, she has to look at her food when she eats it, Dean."

Dean waits for more, but apparently, that makes total fucking sense to Sam. "What?"

"She has to look at her food!" Sam is just on the sane side of yelling right now, and Dean's pretty worried that his little brother has finally snapped like that kid in School Ties. "You never had to look at your food to get it in your mouth! Dad didn't! And she trips over my shoes every night, and she can't write down one thing and talk about another without getting confused!"

"Wait," Dean says, making his way into the bathroom. "Do you actually think your Stanford-educated girlfriend can't find her plate with a fork unless she looks at it?"

"It's not funny, Dean!"

"Dude," Dean says, switching ears so he can piss.

"If she has to look directly at something to see it then she can't be hunting! And she has no coordination! And she can't multitask!"

"Stop yelling, you fucking weirdo," Dean gripes, shaking himself and flushing the toilet. "You're freaking out over nothing."

"She has no peripheral vision! And bad hand-eye coordination!" Sam pauses for a moment and then asks, "Did you wash your hands?"

Dean rolls his eyes and fishes a new pair of underwear out of his duffle. "I thought we were talking about how your girlfriend can't feed herself without taking an eye out."

"Wash your hands, Dean!"


"You're fucking nasty, Dean," Sam tells him. "Wash your hands after you touch your dick."

Dean makes faces at Sam, even though Sam can't see them. It makes him feel better. "You know, you don't have to keep saying my name, Sam. I know who you're talking to."

"That's because no one else is as disgusting as you," Sam says.

Dean washes his hands because what the fuck ever. "Kiddo, I know you're on your period and all, but you really need to dial the drama queen down a few hundred notches."

Sam's silent for a moment before he responds. "That was even more offensive than usual. I'm not even entirely sure where to start, actually."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Dean says. "Do me a favor, okay, Sammy? Try and yank your head out of your ass long enough to realize that if Jess were as legitimately brain damaged as you think she is, she wouldn't've made it this far in hunting."

"I didn't say she had brain damage, Dean," Sam says.

"You're saying that she can't see shit if she isn't looking right at it and doesn't have enough coordination to feed herself unless she's focusing really hard on it," Dean recaps. "Those are things that happen when you have some kind of brain damage." Dean knows this shit. Sam's had enough scarily hard hits to the head to make Dean actually do research on that kind of thing.

"You're putting words in my mouth," Sam says.

"You always do this, dude. Whenever you don't have something real to worry about, you go fucking apeshit over nothing."

"I do not!"

"Remember when you were convinced your prom date was a succubus?"

"You mean Rachel Nave," Sam started. "My prom date that you slept with on prom night."

Oh, right. "You broke up with her."

"You slept with her!" Sam yelled.

"After you broke up with her!"

"You slept with my prom date on prom night."

"You dumped her at the prom, Sammy. I thought you were giving me a present."

"You're disgusting," Sam tells him. The prude.

"You have sex with someone you think can't be trusted to feed herself."

"What is wrong with you?" Sam asks him.

"I've got a moron for a little brother, and he's calling me in the middle of the night—"


"—to tell me his girlfriend looks at her food and some ghost is gonna take her out because of it."

"I'm not—"

Dean hangs up, gives up on trying to figure out how to get clothes on, and crawls back under the covers with Sam's voice still running through his head.

"Hi, Mom," Jess says into her phone, pouring milk over her cereal. It's Raisin Bran, which she normally hates, but Becka made Rice Krispies Treats with the Coco Pebbles, and then she and Sam made ones that weren't burnt to the pan with the Fruity Pebbles.

"Hi, baby," her mom says, crunching on her own cereal on the other side of the line.

"Captain Crunch?"

"It's the only good cereal there is."

"It makes my mouth all filmy," Jess says. It's an old argument they have, older even than their Saturday Morning Cereal Calls.

"That's your body rejecting good taste and buckets of sugar." There's a slurping on the other end of the line because her mom can't actually stand cereal if the milk touches it anywhere but inside her mouth. "How was your week, baby?"

Jess grunts into the phone.

"That good, huh?"

"I think I want to be a lesbian."

"Liz finally kill your tail?"

"Don't call him that."

"I have not even met the boy." Never let it be said that Jess's mother ever passed up the chance for a good stab of guilt. "And I know he follows you worse than a shadow."

"You make him sound like some pathetic loser," Jess says. It's not like he's clingy. They spend plenty of time apart.

"Honey," her mom says, in that overly condescending voice she loves to use when she thinks Jess is being dumb on purpose. "I'm not saying that he's pathetic. Or a loser. But if you asked him to carry your children, he would find a way to get himself pregnant."

"I'm eating!" That is an image Jess could have lived without.

"You're avoiding."

"Am not."

"Did you and he have a fight?"

Before she can stop herself, Jess says, "You know his name."

"You know I'm so bad with names when I don't have faces to put to them," her mom says. Jess can't even fault her for it because she walked right into that.


"Don't waste time, honey. Tell me if I have to buy a ticket out there to break his legs for you."

"You're not going to break Sam's legs."

"But I would if he were mean to you," she says.

Jess rolls her eyes at her bowl of cereal and tries to figure out where to start. "Sam is worried about me hunting."

"You told him?"

Right. Jess decided not to tell her mom about that last week. "Not really," she says. "And thank you for the heads up about the hunter coming to get a book."

"That kid outed you? I'll rip him limb from limb!"

"If you could not scream in my ear, that would be great," Jess says. "He didn't mean to do it. It was…" Jess lets herself trail off. Telling her mom that she was dating another hunter—or ex-hunter, as the case may be—is not the best idea. She doesn't have anything against hunters, of course, but at one point, her mom knew Sam's last name, and nothing good would come down that road.

"It was what?"

"It was a thing. He didn't mean to. The guy just thought Sam already knew."

"And Sam's taking it bad?"

"Well, he's not taking it particularly well."

"On a scale of one to ten?" Jess's mom asks.

"Ten being, what? Locking me in an insane asylum for my own good?"

"Or trying to shoot you."

"I don't know," Jess says. "Mahogany."


"Mahogany," Jess repeats. The scale for civilians finding out isn't really the same scale you use when your ex-hunter boyfriend finds out you hunt. That scale possibly doesn't even exist, as ex-hunters tend to become that way through death.

"I don't know what that means, baby."

"It means I don't know how to convince him that he doesn't have to worry about me going on a hunt and not coming back."

"You can't tell him that."

"I didn't—" Jess's mother cuts her off before she can get any further.

"No," she says, voice firm. "You are a hunter. You are an amazing hunter. You are the very best hunter that I could turn you into. But Sam has to make peace with the fact that—" she breaks off. Jess can hear her sniffing on the other end of the line, and she doesn't want to talk about this anymore. She doesn't want to make her mom cry. "You know why I make you call me before and after every hunt."

Jess nods her head, and it takes a moment for her to be able to respond. "Yes," she says with a steady voice.

"I don't breathe in the morning until you text me and ask me if I slept well, and I don't go to sleep until you've texted me goodnight. What you and I hunt are dangerous things. Sam has every right to be worried about you, and if he weren't, you wouldn't be dating him."

"I want to keep dating him, though, Mom," Jess says. "But I don't know how to do that if he can't stop worrying about me."

"Talk to him about it."

"I have," Jess says.

"No, you haven't. Because you are my daughter, and you are stubborn and pigheaded, and you have all the common sense of a Dalmatian when you think someone's insulted you."

"Dalmatians are inbred."

"Well, there's a reason I never told you who your daddy was."

Jess doesn't find out Dean's back in town until she comes home from her classes to find that he's kicked everyone out of the kitchen and taken over. Rebecca's got a wine glass full of beer —it's her week to do the dishes—and Liz is on the other side of the table from her while they both watch the goings on in the kitchen.

"Dean," Jess greets him. She sets her messenger bag on the couch before she goes to the kitchen. "Sam didn't tell me you were stopping by." The daggers she glares at Sam are wasted, as his back is to her while he cuts something up.

"That's because I knew the little bitch would've snitched me out if I told him," Dean says. He's got that same cocky grin stuck on his face, and she's sure he knows exactly what that look gets him. "Hey, you think you can hook me up with your mom's number? Bobby just laughed when I asked him, but I really think I got a shot."

"There is not enough alcohol in this college for me to do that," she says. "What are you doing?"

"Come on, I think I've got a shot. I could totally be Sammy's father-in-law," he says, throwing a very, very disturbing look over his shoulder at Sam.

"Stop hitting on my girlfriend's mom. She isn't even here to smack you."

"Oh, I'll smack him for her," Jess offers.

"You smack me, and you're not getting dinner."

"I think Dean should always be here," Rebecca says. "This is so much more fun than watching you and Sam study."

"You watch them study?" Dean asks. "Kinky. I like it."

"That's awkward," Liz says. "I like the food talk a lot better; let's go back to that."

"Dean was in the neighborhood," Sam says. It's a lie. Sam's family has never been in the neighborhood until two weeks ago. "He decided to stop by and treat everyone to dinner—"

"That I bought," Dean interrupts. "Because Sam's a mooching cheapskate. I'm kidnapping his ugly mug, too. Got a room to put him up in and everything. Unlimited hot water and free local calls except to cell phones."

"Ooh, upscale," Sam remarks sarcastically. His shoulders are tense, which is a dead give-away that he's embarrassed. "Dean...."

"Oh, don't worry. I'm just fucking with you," Dean elbows him. Sam backhands him across his chest, harder, from what it looks like, and then wordlessly hands him a chunk of tomato. "I sharked some pocket protectors down the road. Got Her Royal Highness a suite with turn-down service and everything."

"What fucking language was that?" Liz asks. Jess hates living with them sometimes; it's like they have a specific sense just for trainwrecks and gossip.

"Dean, you can't—"

"I'm sorry, anyone who bets five hundred bucks on their first game of pool deserves for me to take all their money. Punks're just lucky I let them keep their stupid little loafers."

"Would you let him finish a sentence?" Jess asks. It's probably more pissed off than she intended, if Rebecca and Liz's faces are anything to go by. She hates how Dean's just steamrolling over Sam, though.

"Why? I already know what he's gonna say."

Sam shrugs, the traitor, and says, "It's true."

"Anyone here not like garlic?" Dean asks.

"What the fuck are you making?" Rebecca asks, snatching her wine glass back from Liz. "Hamburgers do not go in pots."

"You're the classiest lady ever, Becky," Liz tells her.

"Don't call me that."

"You two sisters, or something?" Dean asks.

"I'm Navajo and Mexican," Liz says. "And she's the whitest thing on the planet."

"Is that a no?"

"I'd still like to know what we're eating," says Rebecca.

Jess feels a murder coming on, and heads to her room, not at all trying to figure out what the hell hamburger soup is.

"I am really not happy about this," Jess says once Sam is out of the room and in the shower.

"Well, then you probably shouldn't've eaten two bowls," Dean says, sprawling out on the couch.

"I meant this." She waves a hand back and forth between the two of them. "Sam and I fight about hunting, and then a week later, you just happen to 'be in the neighborhood'? You cannot possibly believe that I'm stupid enough to believe that."

Dean leans forward on the couch, and lets the grin leave his face for the first time that night. "Okay, sweetheart, listen close because I'm only going to say this once: I have no idea what the fuck you're talking about. And, newsflash; the whole wide world does not fucking revolve around you."

"It's awfully convenient that you show up now after being AWOL for Sam's first two years here," she says. Like there's anything fucking convenient about not being able to see or talk to his little brother.

"Your face is awfully convenient," Dean tells her, lamely.

"Do you have a concussion?" Jess asks him.

"Listen, I'm sure you're Jess the vampire slayer when it comes to hunting, but I'm so completely not here for you. I'm here because I didn't think I was ever gonna get to see Sammy again, okay? And I will glue myself to your motherfucking doorstep until he gets sick of my face. You should probably just deal with that."

Jess stares at him for a moment, and it reminds Dean of Dad when Dean's just told the actual, honest truth about some deputy who gave him a ride home from the bar and tried to talk him out of his life of crime. It's a little bit disbelieving and a little bit of something else Dean doesn't know her well enough to name. "Sam really didn't ask you?"

"Really?" Dean laughs mirthlessly. "He doesn't want anything to do with our family anymore. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't ask me for a favor if he was on fire and I was the only person on the planet with a bucket of water."

It makes him a little sick to his stomach how honest he's being, but he's always been better at honesty with strangers, and this is probably going to be the only time Sam lets him within a hundred miles of Stanford, so there's no reason to bother lying.

One side of her mouth lifts up in a small smile. "If he were on fire, he'd probably try to put it out himself."

"Yeah, that actually sounds more like him."

"I'm sorry I went all... whatever on you," Jess says, shrugging one of her shoulders and rolling her eyes. "Sam's just been weird lately. About me hunting. He doesn't want me to do it alone, so... yeah. Then you showed up, and I assumed."

"Hey," Dean says, putting a hand up. "I'm gonna stop you right there because I'll agree with Sam on this and pretty much anything else. Even if he's wrong beyond wrong—and I'm talking 'Nirvana is better than Zeppelin' wrong—I'm gonna pick him over you because I don't know you, and Sammy pouts like a pretty little princess who just got told she can't have a pony."

"I'm not trying to get you to pick sides," Jess tells him. "I just don't want you to think I'm crazy or anything."

"You're dating Sam," Dean says. "If you weren't bugfuck insane, you wouldn't've lasted a week. I saw him eat tonight; that kid still won't eat anything off his plate if two of his foods are touching."

She stares at him a moment, and it makes Dean think of the way Sammy used to stare at the lizards on the walls of motels in Arizona. Finally, she asks, "Are all brothers like this, or just you two?"

"Fuck if I know," Dean admits. "I mean, don't get me wrong, the kid is awesome, but he will drive you up the motherfucking wall."

"Oh, you don't have to tell me that," Jess says. "Once, when he couldn't sleep, he organized all three hundred of my DVDs alphabetically. And then stacked them against the wall."

Dean grunts in response and wishes he had a beer to distract him. "So, how'd you two meet?" He finally asks, when the silence starts to get really awkward.

"Do you really care?" Jess asks.

Dean wants to be offended by that, but he really doesn't care, except for incidentally. He wants to know about Sam and everything he's missed. He's got the broad strokes about what Sam's been up to, but he wants to know details. If Sam has friends, if he likes his classes, what about Jess is so special that Sam didn't break up with her as soon as he found out that she hunted? Just the really small things like that.

Jess laughs a little before she starts. It's a pretty good laugh, not too high pitched or annoying. "The very first time we met, I cold-cocked him coming out of class. I wasn't paying attention while I was walking and talking, and I broke his nose and got blood all over a three hundred dollar textbook."

"You broke his nose?" Dean asks. He knows she just said it, but his brain won't fully accept that Sam is dating someone who broke his face.

"It's—wow—" She breaks off again with another laugh that ends in a small hitch of breath. If she weren't Sam's girl, it would be really hot. "It—it was funny before, but it's even funnier now. Because all of my friends were freaking out and screeching, and all of his friends were freaking out and screeching, and the two of us were totally calm. We pinched his nose, tried to keep more blood from ruining his shirt, checked to see how badly I had broken it... "

"And?" Dean asks.

"Exactly," she said, smiling and gesturing to him. "I didn't think anything about it then because, you know. I grew up hunting. A broken nose isn't really life threatening. It's more annoying than anything. But of course he didn't freak out. He's a hunter. He's a Winchester."

"Are we, like, famous or something?" Dean asks. They—him and Sam—haven't really met a lot of hunters. They've known Bobby, Pastor Jim, and Caleb since before Sam knew what hunters were, but aside from them, there weren't a ton of others they'd ever met. John Winchester could write a book on overprotection—in fact, he might have already, but no one would ever know because he wouldn't share the fucking book.

"Your dad is pretty well known," she hedges .

Dean knows that kind of dancing. "Your mom tried to shoot him, didn't she?"

"Not shoot him, per se. She just—" Jess draws the word out, hands wavering back and forth. Dean can suddenly see how she managed to clock Sam by accident. "I don't know. I think she hunted with him once a long time ago, and it ended... less than awesomely."

"How do you think she's gonna take it when you tell her you're dating his kid?" Dean tries to smother the glee in his voice. He doesn't want to seem happy that this could possibly blow up for Sam soon. Because he isn't. But there is a small part of him that might be doing a touchdown dance at the thought that he might be able to be there for Sam if it does.

"Oh. Oh. I'm going to have to tell her, aren't I?" It really does look like the thought hadn't occurred to her before that. And Dean doesn't hate her—in fact, he thinks she's pretty cool—so he tries to lighten the mood.

"The really important question is: do you think she'll say yes to me if I tell her I'm John Winchester's kid?"

Jess puts off talking to Sam until after Dean's gone again. It's not that she wants to avoid talking, but Sam around Dean is a completely different Sam than she's ever seen before. They have this whole world that is just them in a way that reminds her of the way Zach and Becca get when they're in their weird twin space.

Hunting isn't really the kind of thing Jess wants to have a conversation about, though. She just wants to do it. She wants to kill bad things and help keep her friends safe and not have to try and convince anyone to let her do it.

Eventually, though, Jess has to. She finds what she thinks is a hunt. It turns out not to be one, but it almost was, and three days of tense silence is bad enough when you aren't almost living with the person you're giving mutual silent treatment to.

As is their usual lately, the conversation happens when they're in bed. Sam's watching TV—though how much attention he's paying to it is questionable—when Jess finally gives up the shower to Liz.

Jess climbs into Sam's lap, knees on either side of his hips and far enough back so that it doesn't look like a come-on. Sam's hands immediately come up and lock behind her back, like a chair made just for her. She leans forward until she's forehead to forehead with him, her fingers playing with the bottom hem of his ratty old t-shirt.

"I'm going to keep hunting," she says. It's easier to talk to him—to tell him this—when she doesn't have to look at him. When it takes a concentrated effort and crossing her eyes to see the look in his. "And you're probably going to keep worrying. Because I wouldn't be the same person if I stopped, and you definitely would not be the same person if you stopped freaking out over every little thing."

"I don't freak out about everything," Sam says. The little frown he gets between his eyebrows when he's completely wrong about something is adorable.

"You color-code your notes and check your books five times before you leave, in case you grabbed the wrong ones for class," Jess says. "That's who you are. And it's okay. I love your weird, quirky bits."

"My bits aren't weird," Sam says, dead serious. The occasional flashes of teenage boy humor from him make so much more sense after meeting Dean.

"Your bits are incredibly weird in the best way possible, baby."

The face Sam makes is hilarious and reminds Jess how much she loves him, even with all of his obsessive and sometimes very, very stupid thoughts.

"I call my mom when I leave for every hunt. And every time I come back," Jess murmurs, pushing a stray piece of hair back by Sam's ear. It falls back into the edge of her sight, not quite long enough to tuck behind his ear yet. "She does the same thing, too. I never really thought about it as a way to keep tabs on each other. It's just something we always did."

"She called you when she was safe?" Sam asks. Jess closes her eyes because she doesn't want to see even a hint of his face. Her heart breaks for him. She can't even describe how he sounds. He may as well be talking about chem lab for all of the emotion in his voice, and Jess knows that he doesn't shove himself away like that for just anything.

Jess just nods against him. "I can call you right after her. I will find you a beeper and page you like a doctor the second I'm done with whatever I'm hunting. "

Sam's hands cup her face, and he pulls back and stays silent until she opens her eyes to look at him. "You don't have to do that," he says. "I don't want to suffocate you. Or smother you, or whatever. I don't own you."

"It's not about that," she tells him.

"If I left the motel room without calling Dad and telling him first, it caused a war."

"You're not your dad," Jess says. "And unless you have a time machine you haven't told me about, I'm pretty sure you aren't mine, either. I'm going to keep hunting. This isn't about you allowing me to do it; it's about you feeling better when I do."

Sam sighs and tilts his head back against the wall, his hands dropping from her face. "Why can't you just hunt with someone else?"

"Because people are stupid."

Sam laughs. "Oh, that's mature."

Jess can't help but smile back. She loves it when he laughs; it's one of her favorite sounds. "You're wearing hot pink tighty-whities."

"They're called briefs." He laughs again. "And you picked them out."

"I did. But you didn't buy them until Brady dared you to."

"So?" Sam asks.

"So, people in hot pink boy panties—that they only have because of a dare—don't get to make fun of my maturity. Butthead."

Dean doesn't really have any fucking clue what to do when Sam starts calling him. He isn't complaining about Jess and hunting or trying to make Dean come play babysitter for his girlfriend. He's just... calling. And talking to him. About random shit. And Dean likes it. He likes it so much it makes him sick.

He likes hearing about the professor of Sam's who's so boring that Sam spends every lecture trying to stay awake. He likes hearing about how Sam and Liz bond over being complete fucking neat freaks, and how they spent an entire day reorganizing the kitchen together while their girlfriends mocked them.

The conversations are mostly one-sided because Dean fucking hates phones to begin with, at least when it comes to Sam—it's like trying to speak Swahili when he can't see the way that the kid is fidgeting or bouncing his knee—and he's kind of forgotten how to talk to Sam.

Sam doesn't seem to mind, though.

For instance, right now, Dean's waiting for the kindergarten class to let out so that he can stalk whatever thing is picking them off and snacking on them on their ways home from school. And then, as if that's not enough to ruin food for him for the next week, his phone rings, and the first thing he hears is Sam saying, "I mean, I don't get it. It's peanut butter, which is awesome, and banana, which is like little slices of soft, fruity love."

"You're disgusting," Dean tells him.

"The only way it would be better would be if I could dip it in milk without the bread falling apart."

"I think I just threw up in my mouth."

Sam mumbles something through the mess of nasty food in his mouth, and Dean makes heaving noises into the phone and hangs up on him.

The bell rings, and even though he knows it just cements the fact that he's a fucking reprehensible human being, he's got a smile on his face that he can't seem to wipe off.

Dean doesn't call Sam. He can't do that. The moment he does, he's admitting that he wants to talk to Sam, and Dean knows the universe: when there is something that he wants, whenever he tries to take something for himself, however small, the universe immediately fucking backhands him like a puppy trying to steal steak off the dinner table.

So Dean does not call Sam.

He doesn't call him when Dad comes home stoned on painkillers after cracking his head open, even though it's Dean's fault. It seems like all he does anymore is slow Dad down.

He doesn't call Sam the next day when Dad is still stoned off his ass—because while their old man can down an entire bottle of Johnny Walker and still appear sober as a priest to anyone who doesn't know him, he has absolutely zero tolerance at all to whatever it was the docs in the ER pumped into him. Dean does, however, take a picture. And then he gets the hot librarian to show him how to get the picture from his phone to Sam's email because John Winchester asleep in the shower, fully clothed and half-shaved with soap rubbed onto his shirt, is a sight no son should ever miss.

Sam knows that his first response upon waking up from a dream featuring his girlfriend, his brother, and very little clothing should not be to call his brother and tell him about it.

Unfortunately, Sam does not realize that that's what he's doing until Dean's Wide Awake and Panicked voice echoes his name across the phone line for the third time.

"You know, if you were here already, I wouldn't have to wake you up in the middle of the night just to piss you off," Sam says.

"You did not just call me at..." Dean trails off for a moment, and Sam can imagine him fumbling with his phone to check the time through his adrenaline rush. "Four-thirteen in the fucking morning just to fuck with me."

"No, I just called you at two-thirteen in the morning," Sam says.

Dean hangs up on Sam in the middle of cursing to himself, and Sam can feel himself grinning at his phone as he fumbles it back onto the bedside table.

"You okay, baby?" Jess asks blearily. Her eyes don't look like they're open, and the way her hand pets randomly at the bed until it finds his hip tells Sam that they are definitely still closed.

"'M fine, Jess," Sam says. "Just a dream. Go back to sleep."

Jess makes a sleepy sort of noise at him and pulls at his hip until he rolls on his side to face her. She slides her hand up Sam's spine and pulls again and rearranges until she's asleep on her back, arm around Sam's shoulders and his face tucked into her neck, just the way she comforts him after a nightmare.

Sam falls asleep with Dean's voice in his head and Jess's hand in his hair.

Sam tells him about this show he watched a few nights ago, where these two dudes strapped rockets to a '67 Impala and tried to make it fly.

Dean berates Sam for not knowing the name of the show so Dean can find it, and then they spend the next two and a half hours arguing over whether or not Dean could make it fly if he really wanted to.

Flying is absolutely unnatural in every single way, like people who eat nothing but salad and techno music, but Dean is convinced that if he really wanted to, he could totally get his baby airborne.

Sam scoffs—and probably rolls his eyes because he's an overgrown fourteen-year-old—and says that the guys who tried were, like, engineers or something.

"So fucking what, dude?" Dean asks him. "I don't need a piece of paper to tell me I know my girl better than them."

"It's creepy when you call it a girl, Dean."

"Besides," Dean continues, absolutely ignoring Sam's stupidity, "they're limited to things that are legal and shit that they know about."

Dean was alone in the room when the conversation started. He knows this. However, his father is a motherfucking ninja. Dean jumps so hard that he almost drops his phone when Dad says behind him, "If you even think about putting any kind of rocket or spell or plane on that car, you will be walking to every hunt you ever go on again."

Dean hangs up on the sound of Sam's laughter.

About a week later, Dean spends a good two and a half hours listening to Sam rant about how much he hates one of his teachers. He's got no idea what the hell Sam is talking about, but he offers to slash the dude's tires anyway, and it makes Sam laugh and tell him that campus security would probably think it was Sam.

"So... that's a no?"

"That's a no, Dean."

Sam tells him to come make him meatloaf because Jess uses barbecue sauce and a box of breadcrumbs and it's just not the same.

"Of course it isn't the same, dude," Dean scoffs at him as he browses the chips at the QT. "She's using real stuff. I used ketchup packets and crackers."

"Yours was better," Sam insists, like a whiny little three-year-old.

"Then tell her you hate barbecue sauce, dude."

"I don't hate barbecue sauce."

"Then man up and eat the meatloaf." Dean grabs a bag of Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles and curses convenience stores that don't have Cool Ranch Doritos. It's blasphemy, is what it is.

"But I don't want to," Sam whines. Dean has no idea how Sam got parts in so many plays as a kid while being such an overacting ham.

"You're a fucking toddler," Dean says, motioning for the clerk to give him two scratch-off cards.

"Come make me food, Dean," Dean's pretty sure this time that he was sounding like a baby on purpose. "I might starve to death if you don't."

"I'm not driving all the way to California just to make you some fucking meatloaf, you overgrown... thing."


"Shut up," Dean tells him.

"You don't have to cook, you know," Sam says. "You could just come over here and be here."

"Well, if I were there, I wouldn't be somewhere else, would I?" Dean replies, holding the door open for a couple of cops on his way out.

"You should come back, Dean," Sam says, sounding less like a whiny child and more like the brother Dean's missed for way too long. "You and Jess don't have to hunt or anything like that. I just... miss you. You can mock me and call me names or do whatever, but I wanna see you again."

That's way too honest and chick-flick emotional for Dean. He makes some kind of garbled noise into the phone and tells Sam that he needs both hands to drive—which they both know is a total lie—and hangs up on him.

Jess doesn't know the number flashing across the front of her phone, but she answers it anyway, because sometimes hunters pass numbers along. "Hello?"

"Did you tell Sam to call me?"

"Who is this?" Jess asks.

"Dean," Dean growls from the other end. "Did you tell Sam to call me?"

"Why would I do that?" Jess asks him. Not that she doesn't care or anything, but if Sam wants to call his brother—or doesn't want to—that's his business. She kinda figured Dean would be less pissed if he did, though, after their last conversation.

"Swear on your life," he demands.

"Are you high?"

"Why would he call me if you didn't make him?" Dean asks her.

"Gee, I don't know," she starts sarcastically. "Maybe because he's your brother and for some weird reason, he seems to like you? Personally, I don't get it; you're pretty bossy, and you keep trying to get me to hit on my mom for you."

"Your mom is smokin' hot."

"Is that the only reason you called? To ask if I held a gun to your brother and be creepy about my mom?"

"No, I also wanted to know what color you were painting your nails today. I was thinking of going with a nice light pink, but I didn't wanna clash."

"Oh, I don't paint my nails," she tells him. "I make Sam do that for me when he loses bets."

"Really?" Dean asks.

"Oh, yeah," she says. "He's really good at it, too. Not good at learning not to bet against me, though."

"Clearly," Dean agrees. Jess is sure Dean has no idea where Sam got his quasi-gambling problem from.

"I think when he gets back from class, I'm going to have him do my nails in houndstooth. Hot pink on white, maybe." Which probably means nothing to him.

"I have no idea what you just said, so I'm gonna go... do something else," Dean says.

"You know, you can call Sam," Jess gets in before Dean can hang up. "I promise he'll like you calling him first."

Stanford was never about leaving. Not the way Dean took it, and sure as hell not the way Dad saw it.

Sam had a plan. He would go to school, get some independence, not have to hunt for a while, and still get to help people. Dad and Dean could swing by once or twice a month, and he could go with them on Christmas and spring breaks and spend the entire summer with them before coming back and doing it all again the next year.

But then Dad told him not to come back. He gave Sam a choice, and if Sam had stayed, he probably wouldn't be alive right now. Sam had never really figured out how to turn off that overwhelming fear for your life that kept you alive in the middle of a hunt. And while that's good when you have a ghost trying to rip your lungs out of your chest with its icy fingers, it's pretty shitty and not really healthy at all to feel that twenty-four seven.

His original plan was, admittedly, crap. It was stupid to think that he could have his cake and eat it, too. But never let it be said that Sam Winchester does not adapt well.

Now that Sam knows that Dean doesn't want Sam completely out of his life like Dad does, and now that he knows he can handle hunting a lot better when it isn't the main focus in his life to the exclusion of everything else, he can work on trying to convince Dean that Stanford isn't going to steal his soul.

Subtlety is going to be key here.

"You can go to college—or not, if you don't want to. You can keep hunting or give it up or something."

"Sammy..." Dean trails off. He knew it wouldn't last, Sam calling him just to talk. Every call lately has had some variation of this in it. It isn't even a conversation; it's just Sam begging and whining in a way that is so over the top that Dean can tell Sam's doing it on purpose, even through the phone.

"It's so hard to sleep when I can't hear you, Dean. Please? Just for a little bit?"

"You've been sleeping pretty good for the last two years." The kicker of it is that Dean was trying to psych himself up to go swing by Stanford again soon until Sam started with this bullshit and got it in his head to try and manipulate Dean into fucking settling down over there.

"I didn't say it was impossible, Dean," Sam snapped back. He never did like getting called out on his bluffs. "Just hard."

"Why do you always do that?" Dean asks, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Beg until you say yes and I get what I want?" Sam asks over the line. "I kinda figured the part where I get what I want explains it."

"No." Dean sighs, pressing his forehead to the cool Formica table. "Why is it that you take every single fucking opportunity there is to show everyone what a giant girl you are?"

Sam ignores him, which, given, Dean pretty much figured he would. "Dean." He's using that voice. That voice is almost as bad as when Sam gives him—used to give him—the kicked puppy look.

Dean fights with himself for about five seconds. It basically amounts to I don't want to. You wanted to go see him again anyway. Not anymore. You know you're going to do it anyway. I fucking hate myself.

"I'm not putting down roots." He can practically see Sam pumping his fist in the air and trying not to cheer like the loser that he is. "It's just for a little bit. And I'm only doing it because you're fucking pathetic, and if you keep staying over at Jess's place all the time, I'm pretty sure Liz is gonna spike your food with Ex-Lax."

"It's not that bad," Sam lies through his stupid teeth.

"You walked in on her in the shower three times in two days, dude. How do you even manage that?"

"Some people shower more than once a week, Dean."

"Like you would know. You look like a fucking hippie with your hair all greasy and nasty."

"It's called hair wax, and it's better than that stupid gel you use. I almost needed stitches the last time I touched your hair."


"Dude, you cry more than anyone I've ever met."

"I do not."

"You cried over the Coke commercial with the polar bears."

"Hey, that was a sad commercial," Dean says. "Why don't you go dry-hump some trees, you pinko commie."

The line is silent for a moment, and when Sam talks again, he sounds just like he used to when he was little and had a nightmare. Sam is etched into his DNA, his brain, everything, and no matter how strong Sam is trying to sound, Dean can hear the wobble when he asks, "You're gonna come out here, right?"

"Not forever," Dean says. He's always hated being in one place, and he doesn't want Sam to get his stupid suburban hopes up. "But, yeah. For a little bit."

"Soon?" Sam asks. It's so fucking easy to forget that Sam is a grown man when he talks like that.

"Yeah, Sammy. I just gotta let Dad know. Don't want him to worry or anything," Dean says.

"He's gonna say no, Dean. Why can't you just come out here?"

Dean wants to ask Sam why he always has to pick a fucking fight about everything. He doesn't, though. Instead he lies, and tells Sam, "I'm fucking twenty-four, dude. I don't have to ask him anything."

"It would only be for a little while," Dean says. "Just so Sammy can get a place on his own without falling on his face or anything. And I'd still be hunting. I'm totally not gonna stop! It would just be, you know. Near Sammy. If that's okay with you? Sir?"

"You sound like you're trying to ask someone to the junior prom," Bobby comments from whatever shadow he was hiding in. Dude's like fucking Batman, if Batman only swooped out of the night to catch Dean when he was making an ass of himself.

"You know, one of these days you're gonna be lurking around, and instead of making an ass out of myself, I'll be jerking off or something," Dean says.

"If you jack off in my house with the door wide open, you better make sure it's good because it will be the last time anyone ever touches your dick again," Bobby tells him. "Not that I was listening, but—"

Dean tries to make his way out of the room. "Dad told me to check the oil on his truck. I should do that before he finds another job."

He doesn't get far, though, because Bobby stops him with a tight grip on his arm. "You know your daddy better than anyone," he says. "Don't beat around the bush, and don't lie to him."

"I'm not—"

"And don't try to make some big speech, you damn idjit," he says, letting Dean go.

Dean fucking missed Sammy, okay? Like, a truly ridiculous amount. It's fucking embarrassing how much he missed that kid. He missed waking up next to him and complaining about having to share a bed with a fucking yeti and the way Sam always used too much shampoo and had to shower after his shower to get it all out of his hair.

And even though it was only a few minutes, it made Dean sick to his fucking stomach, right in the pit of it, that Sam might have left them because they're them, and not because of hunting. But he didn't. Only Sam could quit hunting, go to a motherfucking respectable college, and fall for another hunter there. That's the kind of shit that just shouldn't happen to people but happens to Sammy all the fucking time.

And what a hunter he fell for. Legs like Wonder Woman and enough brains that she could probably give a hunter who wasn't raised by John Winchester a run for his money.

But she's not why he keeps stopping by. Sure, it's a perk, but Sam is always the number one reason for everything. And the fact that he practically lives with Jess and her roommates, whether they like it or not, means that when Dean visits he usually swings by Jess's first.

The problem with swinging by Jess's, though, is that Sam does not actually live there. Which means sometimes it's just Jess or Liz or Rebecca or some combination therein. And Jess loves Sam. A lot. It's disgusting, really, how much. And she is hot and brainy and leggy, and she has amazing curves, and she loves Sam the way he deserves to be loved, without reservation or shame or any fucking common sense.

So, basically, Sam is Dean's favorite person in the fucking universe. And Jess is now his second favorite.

Which means that when Dean shows up and Sam is out, Dean lets Jess talk him into really bad ideas. Like apartment hunting. Apparently, landlords don't give much of a fuck what your renter's history looks like when you give them first, last, and their deposit in cash.

All Dean was supposed to be doing was looking for a place for Sam so that Liz didn't take a butcher's knife to him in the shower. That's it. But when he told Sam he found an apartment, Sam's face just... it didn't just light up. Dean honestly can't remember ever seeing Sam that happy about anything, much less something Dean did.

And he tried to tell Sam he wasn't staying, he did. He even said the words and everything, but Sam actually fucking hugged him, and it was the girliest moment of his life, but Sam's arms felt so good around him, and his hair still smelled like that fucking weird shampoo Dean used to fucking scour Walmart for.

But then Sam said he fucking missed Dean. Dean. Like he was something to be missed.

And then Dean, like, blacked out or something because the next thing he knew, he was fucking looking at apartments, and he and Sam were bitching over whether to get one bedroom or two. Dean insists he can sleep in the same house as Sam and not have to hear him breathe, which might be a lie, and Sam is a fucking cheapskate who doesn't want to pay three hundred bucks more when he knows he and Dean can split a room without stabbing each other in the face.

"I'm not quitting," Dean says in the middle of their fifth apartment viewing. The walls are baby pink with puke green ceilings, and if they end up here, the very first thing he's doing is painting everything.

"I don't care," Sam says. He's grinning huge and wide and has not fucking stopped since Dean told him he was taking Sam apartment hunting. "You and Jess can hunt together! Then you can both hunt, and I don't have to worry that either of you are gonna die because you're alone. How much was the deposit on this one?"

"About half the money I'll spend painting over everything," Dean tells him, sneering at the back of the neon orange door. "It smells like someone rubbed their shit into the walls here. How do you not smell that?"

"It does not!"

"It really does. If you get this place, I'm staying at Jess's. I think Liz likes me."

"Liz is gay, Dean. She's not going to sleep with you."

"You don't know that. Some lesbians dig the strap-on action."

"On you, or her?"

"I'm not picky."

"The word you're looking for is 'sex addict.'"

"Shut up," Dean says. "Come on, let's go. I'm not kidding; we're not getting this one."

"Why not?" Sam whines.

Dean just stares at Sam before turning and walking out.

It takes three days before they find a decent apartment because Sam is picky about weird shit like recycling and working locks on the gates of pools. It's not campus housing, but it is? Dean doesn't fucking get it, but Sam says it's important. Stanford kids gravitate to it, but the school doesn't own it or some shit like that. There's no elevator, and it's on the fucking second floor, but Sam just tells Dean to think of it as motivation not to get hurt while he's hunting.

"Should've just gone pre-med then, Sammy. Don't know why you wanna be a lawyer anyway."

"Because I can already sew your pathetic ass up, but I need a degree to bail you out of jail when someone doesn't buy your Federal Body Inspector ID."

That stops Dean in his tracks for a number of reasons. "Dude, if I get arrested, I'm not letting some tax lawyer save my ass. Let me bust myself out."

"I'm not gonna be a tax lawyer, Dean."

"You said you were gonna be like Eliot Ness."

"No, you said I was gonna be like Eliot Ness. I called you a dumbass and told you I wanted to be a defense attorney."

"So, wait, you're gonna defend baby rapers?"

Sam heaves a sigh so big that there's probably a hurricane somewhere he should be blamed for, and the look on his face is one Dean is very familiar with. It's his "how the fuck are you so damn stupid?" look that Dean has missed more than he's comfortable admitting.

"No, Dean," Sam says. "Defense attorneys can pick their clients. Like, say, only picking hunters who are in trouble because werewolves look human or grave desecration is actually really illegal?"

"Oh," Dean says. "But... you hate hunting, Sammy."

"But I don't hate hunters." Sam's voice gets that low, serious tone to it that he uses whenever he's about to be sappy and ruin Dean's fucking image. "I didn't leave completely because of Dad, and I didn't leave because of you. If I messed up on a hunt, and, and you died because of that? I wouldn't be able to live with myself, Dean."

Dean hears the words, sure. But Sammy's stronger than he thinks, and if Stanford proved anything, it's that he doesn't need Dean even a fraction as much as Dean needs him. This is the part of the conversation where Dean's supposed to tell Sam all about how he was terrified all the time of hurting Sam or fucking him up or getting him killed.

"Do you need a tampon, Sammy?" he asks instead. "Is it that time of the month for you? It's okay. I'll make you a bubble bath and find a shitty chick flick for you to curl up and watch."

"You're such a jerk."


The apartment they end up getting—on the second floor, in the almost-student housing—has white walls, one giant-sized bedroom that the landlord thinks is small, a bathroom that doesn't make him vaguely claustrophobic, and a kitchen with a stove and an actual real-sized refrigerator. An actual stove. With an oven that works. Not a hot plate next to an old toaster oven or a stove that worked once, way back before his Baby was made.

The windows are painted shut, the door creaks worse than Dean's knees, and the floor is cold tile and colder wood, but Dean loves it—and his covered parking spot—more than he thought was ever possible, considering everything it stands for.

The apartment is fully furnished—which cost a fucking arm and a leg extra on top of the batshit two thousand a month rent they agreed to—but Dean kills a credit card at Walmart anyway. They get buckets of paint, brushes, a second TV—mostly because they can—and food.

Dean makes Sam leave on the way to the checkout because security has been following them, and if the cashier calls the cops, Dean can run out of there faster if he doesn't have to worry about making sure no one catches Sam.

The cops don't get called, but the manager comes over to "make sure everything's okay," and Dean plays Frat Boy With His First Credit Card as hard as he can. It isn't as believable when it's responsible shit he's buying and not junk food and beer, but Dean still makes it out in one piece.

Sam spends the whole ride back—in the uHaul Sam made Dean rent mostly-legally like a little bitch—yelling at Dean and saying "I told you so," and Dean doesn't bother even trying to hide the smile on his face because this is music to his ears. After so long without Sam's whining and bitching and complaining, it might even sound better than ACDC or Metallica.

Dean ditches Sam and lets him unload everything by himself. It is completely within his right to do so, though, because Sam told Jess she could paint shit all over their walls, and he has to go pick her up so she can do it. If Dean's gotta live somewhere that will probably be covered in pink flowers and teddy bears or whatever shit, then he gets to skip out on the tedious crap like organizing cabinets. Besides, Sam practically came in his pants just talking about having different places to put cans of food and stuff.

The fucking loser.

Jess does not understand his pain.

"You look like you just gave Hugh Hefner a blowjob," she says when she climbs into the car.

"How would you know what that looks like?" he shoots back.

"Because I watch porn and have seen Becca the night after a frat party."

"Lot of old guys at frat parties?" he asks, pulling away from the curb.

"Lots of really gross guys and total assholes," Jess says. "You should ask Sam about Brady sometime. College brings out the douchebag in just about everyone."

"Lucky for you, Sam was already at his douchebaggiest when he got here."

"I really don't like it when you put Sam down like that," she says.

"Oh, great," Dean groans. "This is gonna be one of those fucking awkward conversations about how you think I'm a shitty brother, right?"

"Are you a shitty brother?" Jess asks. Like that isn't the sixty-four thousand dollar question right there.

"Well, he's alive," Dean starts, ignoring the majority of his brain. "So I must not be completely shitty. And for all of his fucking endless douchebaggery—which, let me tell you, is fucking endless—he's a fucking amazing kid, so... I don't know. I guess I wasn't a complete waste."

Dean refuses to take his eyes off the road, but that doesn't mean he can't tell Jess is staring holes into the side of his head. "I still don't like it when you say things like that about him."

"Well, that's how we talk, so I guess you're just gonna have to learn how to fucking deal with it."

Thankfully, Jess doesn't try to talk again for the rest of the relatively short ride.

Sam and Dean split a ridiculously expensive bed that Sam can actually fit in comfortably, even with all the tossing, turning, and kicking he knows he does at night. It's not until after they've spent a week bitching back and forth about Sam's bruised shins or the eardrums Dean keeps claiming are busted from the snoring Sam totally does not do that Sam realizes sharing a room with his brother is going to make sex with Jess problematic.

"What a fucking dumbass," Dean tells him. "Do you think I tried to get us a fucking two bedroom because I was being nice?"

"It was almost three thousand dollars, Dean!" The money seems like a lot less now that he realizes it's going to impact his sex life.

"I can't wait to see you tell your girlfriend that you didn't think sex with her was worth an extra thousand bucks a month."

"...You should tell her for me." Dean refuses to look up from the Cosmo magazine he swiped—"It's the principle of the thing, Sammy!"—probably because he knows if he does, he's gonna get hit by the puppy eyes. Never let it be said that Sam doesn't know exactly what weapons he has in his arsenal.

"No way." Dean grins, kicking his feet up on their brand new coffee table that they actually own. "I wanna see you explain why you got your own apartment and still want to make the beast with two backs at her place."

"Dean, she might actually cut my dick off," Sam pleads.

"Yeah." Dean laughs. "It's gonna be fucking awesome."

Jess takes it better than they thought she would.

Of course, they really did think that cutting off Sam's dick was something that might happen, so it doesn't say much that it went better than that.

They compromise, though.

"Compromise," in this situation means that Dean will leave the apartment when they want to have sex—because apparently having sex with her boyfriend on the bed he shares platonically with his brother while said brother is on the other side of the wall watching TV is a line for Jess —and Jess won't shove her finger down her throat and forcibly vomit all over the inside of the Impala every time she's in it.

"You know that if you actually did that, you and Sam wouldn't be dating anymore, right?" Dean asks her.

"You know that if you actually refused to let us use the room, we'd probably just do it in your car, right?" Jess asks back.

"It's really worrying me how much you two get along," Sam tells them.

Dean lifts his beer to her. "Mazel tov." Jess cracks one for herself while smothering a smile.

Dean has no idea what the fuck to do with himself while Sam's in class. At first, he doesn't even really think about it, but after a few days, he starts to get bored out of his fucking skull. Sam tells him there's no reason to be bored while they have the internet, and Dean valiantly resist the urge to give Sam the fucking atomic wedgie he so clearly deserves.

It's not like Dean hasn't been alone before. But there's a difference between a free day between hunts and trying not to lose his mind every single day while Sam gets his head filled with stupid laws and shit no one in their right mind cares about.

He loves TV, but Dean knows that he's not the kind of guy who can sit on a couch without moving all day. No matter how fucking awesome the couch is.

Sam suggests he enroll at the community college because he can't get it through the helmet he calls hair that Dean fucking hated school. Sure, he was good at it when he tried, but it was even more boring than a stakeout. Dean still thinks one of the best things Dad did for him was let him take his GED and drop out after only a month of begging.

There are job hunt magazines—actual little stapled books for the sole purpose of finding a job, who knew?—littering the coffee table when Dean comes back from his run one day, and he doesn't know if it's a hint from Sam or if Sam's delusional enough to think Dean's gonna let him have to work to make money.

A job might keep him busy, though, at least for a couple of days. But it's only to keep him busy; Dean's not gonna stop hustling suckers out of their money or taking advantage of free credit cards just because Sam wants to be a starving college student like the rest of the world.

Fast food is out. Dean loves it too much to let any job try to ruin it for him. Sam suggests Starbucks, and Dean almost dumps a pot of noodles on him—mostly because the second he gets anywhere near a kitchen, Sam has all the motor control of Kermit the Frog, but also because he's a fucking dumbass. It's bad enough that Dean's already gotta order Sam's froofy drinks; he's not about to deal with some high-strung fuckhead who wants a half-caf, no foam, double-pump soy vanilla money waster for fucking shits and giggles.

Besides, the dude who interviewed him got all granola on Dean about his gas mileage, and nobody insults Baby.

He spends a few hours doing construction work, but apparently, you can't just walk onto a job site and get a job anymore. Which, by the way, is fucking bullshit because Dean knows what he's doing with a hammer and some power tools. He managed to keep shoes on the fucking jet skis Sam calls feet by doing random under-the-table construction work for years until the little bitch ran away.

He manages to get away before the cops get there, though, so bonus for him and his "gas guzzling monster." Fucking hippies. And who calls the cops on someone trying to work?

Dean fucking hates California.

With all due respect to Jess, Sam can't remember the last time he was this happy.

It's not like he was miserable or even particularly unhappy before Dean finally gave in. And he does love Jess. Sam loves sleeping next to her, holding her hand, and the way she laughs. He loves that she calls her mom every day and that every single time they buy a family size lasagna, she eats half of it in one sitting and then spends the next two hours complaining that her stomach hurts and swearing that she'll never do it again.

But. Dean.

For better or worse, Dean has been the center of Sam's world since literally before he could remember. Most of his life has been spent within a foot and a half of his big brother, and for all that he lied and bullshitted and bluffed about not being able to sleep, his body does relax easier when it's near Dean.

Dad has this story that he used to tell when he was drunk and sad and particularly missing Mom—which was basically the middle of October through about the end of February—about how Dean didn't talk for a long time After. And how, when he finally did, the only thing he said for months and months was "Sammy" in a hundred different ways. And how when Sam finally started talking, the first word out of his mouth wasn't "Dada" or even "Dean," but "Sammy," just the way Dean used to whisper it when he said goodnight.

So Sam's never really had a chance. And he used to resent that and hate himself for it because that really is the appropriate response when you're thirteen and realize you want to kiss your brother more than the head cheerleader or the captain of the football team. But he's older now and wiser, and he knows now that just because he loves his big brother in the unhealthiest way possible, it doesn't mean he can't love someone else in a mostly healthy way.

Right now, it's a Wednesday, and Jess is having an I Hate My Major study group in her suite while Sam is at home with Dean, watching The Last Boy Scout on the TV they bought while sitting on the couch they own. Sam makes gagging noises every time Dean eats a piece of licorice, and Dean keeps trying to contaminate Sam's Raisinets by throwing his nasty dirt-snacks in them.

Sam has a class at ass o'clock in the morning that he should really be sleeping for, but he's relaxed and having fun, and he only hates himself about half as much as he usually does for how badly he wants to lean over and kiss Dean.

Dean tries a local garage, but the fucking idiots there called his baby a Pinto. A fucking Pinto. He wouldn't work there for all the money in the world.

After two weeks, Dean has basically exhausted all attempts at jobs in the area. He's also fixed everything in their apartment, everything in their neighbor's apartment, everything at Jess's place, everything at Jess's friend's brother's place, and everything at Liz's girlfriend's place.

Once he runs out of shit to fix, he gets bored. And Dean will be the first person to tell you that a bored Dean Winchester is a really fucking dangerous thing. Still, it takes another few days before Sam loses his fucking shit at Dean.

But really? Sam should fucking know better than to leave shit just lying around when Dean doesn't have anything to do.

"That was a brand new iPod, Dean! It cost me three hundred dollars. Do you have any idea how much tutoring I had to do to get three hundred dollars?"

"You needed your own EMF detector!" Dean yells back. "And, dude, you got ripped the fuck off. It doesn't even have a cassette player; that was not worth three hundred bucks."

Sam laughs, but it's not one of his good laughs. It's that vaguely homicidal, somewhat hysterical laugh he gets sometimes before Dean wakes up with his zipper super glued together or something.

"You're going to buy me another iPod," Sam tells him. "Like, right now. And then you need to go sign up for a fucking cooking class—"

"Hey!" Dean protests. "I am a fucking awesome cook!"

Sam continues on like Dean didn't say anything. "Or a knitting class, or, or, underwater aerobics or something. Because if you fuck with any more of my stuff, I'm going to have to physically harm you until the hospital has to keep you away from my things while I'm at class, okay? "

"You are such a whiny little bitch," Dean says, picking up his keys. "And you're coming with; I don't know where to find that pad thing."

"Pod, Dean. It's an iPod."

Dean needs a hunt. He's been trying to not actively look for them because Sam gets that stupid look in his eye like Dean doesn't like him anymore, but he is losing his fucking mind trying to not to get bored.

It's surprisingly hard to find a hunt. The rash of accidents on campus turn out to be a combination of hazing gone wrong and students burning the fuck out and losing their shit. The wild animal attack in the park nearby results in Dean almost getting his face torn off by a giant dog that happens to be black, not the Black Dog that Dean thought it was.

There are a few students that have gone missing, but they seem to be the human kind of missing as opposed to the supernatural kind.

Dean's almost sure that he's read that some big profiling unit from the FBI is in town because the FBI loves shoving their noses in where they don't belong and fucking up perfectly good hunts. But skimming the rest of the article proved him wrong. No one central place, not particularly gruesome—as not gruesome as slit throats and near beheadings can get—and no bite marks or unexplained shit.

If Dean's honest with himself, it's starting to freak him out. He's never heard of a place that was completely and utterly devoid of anything out of the ordinary. Even Blue Earth, which Pastor Jim basically turned into a gigantic hunters' compound, still got hit with a stray ghost or hungry thing wandering in every once in a while.

Everywhere has something. People die shitty deaths, and they kill themselves and murder each other, and they bring superstitions and monsters with them from The Old Country and a million other things.

Just because there isn't anything in the paper, though, it doesn't mean there isn't a hunt. If Sammy could find enough to have a fucking panic attack when he realized Jess was hunting the shit he found, then there's gotta be something.

"I don't know, Dean. There just aren't a lot of hunts here," Sam says.

"There are enough for you to find hunts," Dean says.

"Yeah, but not right here." Sam rolls his eyes. "California's a big place, Dean. Most of the hunts are in San Mateo or Mountain View or Redwood City, not Palo Alto."

"Do you honestly not think it's weird that your college is the only college we've ever heard of that isn't infested with ghosts and monsters?" Dean asks him.

Sam slurps at his bowl of cereal, probably for no other reason than that he knows Dean fucking hates that. He wipes his mouth on the back of his hand—doesn't even bother to use his sleeve—and then his stupid fucking Condescending Voice comes out. "Dean, if there were half as many ghosts out there as you think there are, no one would be able to think they didn't exist."

"You're in a college where people have killed themselves and drunk themselves to death, and no one's haunting it. There aren't any chupacabras around here or Black Dogs or anything. For fuck's sake, Sammy, you've got a genuine Mystery Spot right down the road and nothing weird here!"

"An hour away is not right down the road."

"Since when?"

"Since always, Dean. You know, I think you're making a big deal out of this because you're just too stubborn to admit that maybe you don't need to hunt here."

"And I think you're so fucking hard up for your 'normal' that you're willing to ignore the fact that something around here is seriously fucked up because it would mean you might have to feel bad about not doing shit about it."

"I never wanted normal!" Sam screams. "I just fucking wanted to be safe, Dean! Why is that so bad? Huh? Can you tell me?"

"Because you were safe, Sammy, and it still wasn't fucking enough for you!"

"I was never safe!"

"Bullshit," Dean spits out. "You're alive, aren't you?"

"I wasn't safe; I was smothered! I had to skip dances and homework because I absolutely had to go hunt with you guys, but I was the only eighteen-year-old who wasn't allowed to walk home from school by himself!"

"Really? You're really complaining because you got free rides home from school? Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Are you being stupid on purpose, or can you just not help it?" Sam asks.

"That depends, are you being an ungrateful little bitch on purpose, or can you just not help it?" Dean asks him back. It's taking everything in Dean's power to keep from hauling off and socking Sam right in his spoiled face.

Sam isn't big and puffed up like you'd normally expect from a giant. He was a shrimpy little kid for long time, and when he gets mad, he still roots himself in place and just verbally jabs at the soft tissue. It was why his fights with Dad were so bad: he would just zero in on whatever was bugging Dad most and kick at it until Dad finally snapped.

"You know what? You should just go running back to Dad," Sam says. "Hunting seems to be the only fucking thing that matters to you anyway."

Dean just stops. He nods his head a little to himself and sucks on his teeth before he says something he might regret. "Hunting's the only thing that matters to me? Is that right?"

"Yeah," Sam says. "That's right."

"Okay." Dean nods calmly. "You remember that," he says. And then Dean has his jacket and his keys and is out the door before Sam can even try to stop him.

Jess doesn't hate Dean most of the time. But there's something about getting drunk dialed at two in the morning and then having to take a cab out to a bar that makes the hate flow strong. It isn't really the names he keeps calling Sam as he slurs out insults that she thinks might be in another language or the way he keeps trying to shove her away.

She gets it. Dean's an angry drunk. Sam's a horny drunk; if he gets enough alcohol in him, he will go as far as possible with basically anyone within reach of him. She doesn't take it personally.

Part of it might be that she has class in the morning and so does Sam, and Dean has nothing better to do with his life than to go out and get fucking plastered and steal their sleep.

And yet, there is a small, tiny, insignificant part of her that is happy that she's the one Dean called. Not just that Dean called rather than try to drive—though that makes her happy, too, in a general kind of way—but that he called her. It means that Jess might be more to him than just the girl his brother is dating.

Or the daughter of his one true love. That part probably won't be getting less creepy any time soon.

"Don't worry," Dean slurs as she mostly drags him out of the bar. "Won' make you call me 'Daddy.'"

When Sam wakes up in the morning, he can hear the shower running. The relief he feels pretty much cannot be put into words. Once Sam's anger had bled off the night before, he was left with a stomach twisted into knots and the fear that Dean wasn't going to come back.

He almost doesn't want to get out of bed, just in case it's Jess stealing the hot water, but somehow, he makes himself do it anyway.

The bathroom door is open, and Sam's entire mood picks up because Jess is weird about closing the bathroom door all the time, so he knows it's Dean in there.

For once, Sam is thankful for Dean's hard-on for hot water. Even though it means that Sam has an ice cold shower in his future, it also means that the mirror is fogged up enough for Sam to be able to apologize without having to actually say anything.

Sam somewhat carefully writes out I'm sorry that I'm an asshole on the mirror. And then, because Sam is a fucking amazing brother, he draws a little frowny face below it so that Dean can mock him instead of them having to actually have a real conversation about it.

And then he goes to make pancake batter but not the actual pancakes, because they are fucking hard to make and taste nasty when burnt.

"I'm bored. Find me a hunt," Dean says, kicking his feet up on her table.

"I eat there," Jess tells him.

"Congratulations," he says. "Now find me something to light on fire."

"Do I look like your TA?"


"Do it yourself."

"I tried," he says. "But there is fucking nothing in all of Palo Alto or Stanford that needs to be hunted."

"So you thought I could make you a hunt?" she asks.

"Well, you're the only one I know who has actually found hunts out here," Dean admits. "So I figured you could find me one, and I could have something to do with my day besides think up new ways to cockblock Sam."

"Thank you for that, by the way," Jess says sarcastically. "When Sam doesn't get to have sex, I don't get to have sex."

"All the more reason to find something for me to hack the head off of," he tells her with a huge grin.

"Sorry, Captain Fluffy, but your Jolly Green Giant of a brother is usually the one who found all the hunts," Jess admits. "I'd just study and do papers, and then Bobby or someone else would call me up and let me know there was a hunt in the area."

"Fucking figures," Dean curses, finally taking his feet off the table.

"Sam won't find them for you?" Jess asks. She's got a smartass grin on her face like she already knows the answer to that.

"It was a perfectly valid fight, okay? Colleges are always haunted—especially ones built because of a ghost."

"That's not true, you know."

"Says you."

"Said Leland Stanford," Jess counters. "He always said it came to him in a dream."

"Yeah, because if he told the world his son's ghost told him to build a fucking college, he would've been committed."

Jess rolls her eyes and ignores him. "It's not that weird that Stanford doesn't have anything to hunt here."

"See? That's why Sam doesn't want you to hunt alone."

"Fuck you very much," she tells him.

"You know," Dean says, leveling a look at her. "You're pretty hot when you curse."

"Is that what you do? Tear down women so they blush and get all grateful when you compliment them? Because that's disgusting."

Dean laughs wryly and clenches his jaw. He wasn't actually trying to push her buttons that time, but he must have because she only ever ends up in "you hate women" territory when he's really pissed her off.

It takes him a moment to ignore his knee-jerk reaction before he responds. "One? You are kind of ridiculously hot, yeah, but you're Sammy's girlfriend. No one is hot enough for me to do that to Sam, okay? Two, I didn't insult you because you're a chick. I insulted you because you seem to think you're a great hunter who doesn't need help, and yet you don't think it's weird that a school that's a hundred years old doesn't have any ghosts anywhere in the entire town."

"I don't need help hunting," Jess says. "I was raised hunting, just the same as you and Sam."

"No," Dean tells her. "You weren't. No one was raised in it the way me and Sam were. I shot my first bull's eye when I was six. Sam could nail bull's eye before he even knew why he had to know. You got a house and play dates and birthday parties. Me and Sam got pop quizzes in the car about how to kill Black Dogs and what our last names were gonna be this week."

"How about we make a deal?" Jess proposes. "You stop treating me like I don't know my head from my ass, and I'll stop calling you on it. Sound fair?"

"Oh, sweetheart," Dean starts, purposefully condescending this time. "I treat you the exact same way I treat pretty much everyone I'm not related to. And I gotta tell you, Sam's been trying to change my personality since he was old enough to talk back. I haven't done it for him, and I'm probably not gonna do it for you."

"Wow," she deadpans. "You must have flocks of friends."

"I don't need friends," Dean tells her honestly. "I have Sam."

Sam finds them a hunt.

"What do you mean 'you two'?"

"I mean," Sam says, "that I have had it up to here—" He gestures with his hand to right around the height of his hairline. "With you guys getting along one day and then not speaking for the next three."

"That is not my fault." Dean holds his hands up in surrender.

"Of course it isn't," Jess says in a sarcastic tone. "I'm a psycho for wanting to be respected."

"That!" Sam yells, gesturing to the two of them."That right there! You two are the most important people in my life, and you need to get along because I'm not choosing between you two. I can't."

"So you decided that leaving us alone with guns was a good idea because then we'd choose for you?" Dean asks.

Jess doesn't roll her eyes, but Sam can see the effort it's taking her not to.

"I want you two to hunt together," Sam tells them. "Think about that: I'm actively encouraging you both to go endanger your lives and possibly not come back because I'm that desperate for you to get along."

"Fine," Jess says.

"Fine," Dean agrees. "But if she comes back with a dick or wings or something fucked up like that, don't blame me."

"What?" Jess asks. "Is this something I should worry about with you?"

Sam practically shoves their weapons at them as he herds them out the door.

"This is the worst hunt I've ever been on," Jess says, catching herself as she stumbles over a slime-covered rock.

"This isn't even in the top twenty for me," Dean says. He resists the urge to shake the gooey junk off of him like a dog. Jess would probably appreciate that even less than Sam does. "Maybe not even in the top fifty."

Jess eyes him up and down with a look of such disdain that if Dean weren't already keeping his dry heaves in check, he might feel sick. "You must be a really shitty hunter."

Dean scoffs, taking the opportunity to choke and spit out half a lung full of nasty all over the dirt. "Because I've hunted more than you?"

"Because we didn't get the thing, we don't know what the fuck it even is, you got sneezed on by it, and there are still fifty worse hunts above this."

"Snot is nasty as fuck, don't get me wrong," Dean pauses to heave again a little. "But neither of us are dead or hurt. Besides, I think I winged the fucker."

"Do you always curse that much?" Jess asks him. She picks up what's either a large twig or a small branch and starts scraping the junk off of Dean.

Dean holds up a finger and then bends over and vomits into the dirt between them. When he's done, he stands back up and plasters a smile on his face. "Fuck yeah, I fucking do," he says, full of smarm. It would probably work better if he hadn't just thrown up something else's snot.

"So classy," she remarks.

"Fuck classy. I'm covered in snot—inside and out—and you regularly piss yourself when you sneeze."

"I did it twice, and I was sick." She jabs him in the back with the twigbranch.

"Ow! Fuck. Whatever you tell yourself to get through the night, sweetheart."

Dean bids them a farewell of, "Peace out, lesbians, I'm gonna go bring us home some bacon," when he leaves.

Sam rolls his eyes and waves Dean off. "Don't bring back anything you can't cure with penicillin!"

Jess is pretty sure that she stifles the sigh well, but the tilt of Sam's head and arch of his eyebrow say otherwise.

"What's wrong?" he asks.

"Nothing," Jess says.

Sam sighs, loud and dramatic and obviously mocking.

"I just..." Jess tries to figure out a more diplomatic way to say it, but she gives up with a sigh and finally admits, "I don't like how he treats you, okay?"

"Dean?" Sam asks incredulously.

"No," Jess says, rolling her eyes. "I don't like how your old suitemates treat you. That's why I decided to say something now, weeks after you've moved out."

"So sassy," Sam teases her.

"You're the one who asked," Jess points out, annoyed. "If' you're just gonna make fun of me, then I'm gonna call dibs on your TV."

Sam snatches the remote like he's saving her from a deadly animal. "I'm sorry," he says, laughing a little. "It's just that it's Dean."

"It is Dean," Jess agrees. "He calls you names and treats you like you're three and calls you spoiled."

Sam gets the weirdest smile on his face, some kind of cross between amusement and what might be pity. "Well, Dean is three, so—"

"But you aren't, Sam," she says. "And he shouldn't treat you like you're some helpless toddler."

Sam shrugs. "Trust me. Dean's a jerk most of the time, but he would sell his car for me."

And that just breaks her heart, but she can't tell if it's sad or sad. "Sam, the fact that you're worth more than a car doesn't mean you're spoiled."

Sam roars with laughter. He head goes back, and he claps, and it's the biggest laugh she's ever seen from him. It actually takes him a minute to respond because every time he opens his mouth to speak, he starts giggling like a little kid.

"You don't understand Dean and that car," he finally says. "He would cut off both of his arms and teach himself how to drive with his feet for that thing. But if it was between me and the car, he would sell her so fast it would make your head spin."

"He doesn't treat you like it," Jess tells him.

"He does," Sam insists. "Look, I can cook. We both know this. But Dean keeps convincing himself that I'll light all of California on fire if I try to boil water, so he makes me food without having to acknowledge that he does it because he likes cooking for me."

"That sounds like a ridiculously complicated method of spoiling you," she admits.

"I'm not spoiled," Sam objects.

"Oh, you really are," Jess says. "It's just the Dumb Boy method of spoiling you."

Sam smiles a little, huffing out a laugh and threading their fingers together. Her thumb passes back and forth over his, slowly. It's nice and calm in a way they haven't really been able to enjoy in a while.

"I know that Dean is incredibly abrasive," Sam says. "But he is the best person I know. Give him a chance, and I promise you; you'll see it, too."

"Really, Dean?" Sam asks, picking up the movie's case. "Poltergeist?"

"Hey, you said I could pick the movie."

"I'm pretty sure I didn't say that." Sam explicitly remembers telling Dean to get the first Harry Potter movie.

"Shush, Sam," Jess says, stealing a handful of popcorn. "I like this movie."

"Yeah, shush, Sam." Dean grins, snapping off a giant bite of disgusting red licorice. "Besides, you're a grown man. I think if I rented you that movie, my virginity would grow back."

"I will give you five hundred million dollars to never explain the connection between those two statements in your head," Sam tells him. "Did you at least get any Milk Duds?"

"No, but I got you Sno-Caps and Whoppers, so quit your whining and watch the movie."

They make it a good ten minutes into the movie. And then Jess asks if exorcisms really look like that.

"How the fuck should I know?" Dean asks her. "Ask Bobby."

"But you said that you hunted with Bobby Singer," Jess says. It's so weird to Sam that she always uses Bobby's first and last name. "He was the one who sent you to my mom in the first place, wasn't he?"

"Well, yeah, but a hunter can't survive on demons alone," Dean says. Sam knows that tone of voice. "There's only, like, six possessions a year. Worldwide."

"Hey, Dean," Sam says, trying to cut the fight off before it starts. "You remember when we first saw this, and you convinced the nuns at that one school that you were possessed?"

They ignore him.

"I know that, asshole," Jess says. "I just thought if you spent all this time with him, he might have taught you something."

"Hey, maybe we should make pea soup for dinner tomorrow," Sam suggests, desperate.

"Six a year. That's like learning Swahili because you might run into someone someday who only speaks it."

"It's nothing like learning Swahili!"

"I knew I should've gone to the store myself," Sam mutters.

Jess does not like hunting with Dean.

It's not personal. He's not the biggest asshole she's ever met in her life, and she's willing to concede that even when he treats Sam like dirt, he would probably violently murder anyone else who tried to do it.

And he's a good hunter. Great shot, awesome with knives, can even wield a sword... somewhat decently. And he's smart and careful, and he doesn't talk down to her as much as he did when they first started hunting together.

But she's starting to think he pisses monster bait.

There is absolutely no reason why their completely safe recon for the killer seahorse monster should get crashed by giant mutated crabs who either want to eat them or play Edward Scissorhands with their minivan-sized claws.

And yet. It's two-thirty in the fucking morning, and Jess has on a bikini top and jean skirt—it was supposed to be recon, she was blending in, dammit—and her and Dean—in his stupid, stupid jeans and his stupid, stupid jacket and his stupid, stupid fucking boots—are being chased down the edge of the water.

If they make it off the stupid fucking beach, she just might strangle Dean.

Nine bullets and a MacGyver'd flame-thrower pike later, Jess has lost both of her sandals and most of the skin off of her knees. They've also managed to take down a crab the size of a small beach house and drive the others back into the sea.

Dean still has all his clothes and no scrapes, and the hair on his head somehow looks exactly the fucking same as when he stepped out of the car. Jess looks like she got trashed and gave a really bad blowjob. It's probably the bad blowjob part that she hates the most because that's just misleading. She prides herself on giving awesome head.

"You think this is safe to eat?" Dean asks, nudging one of the legs with his stupid boot.

"I think we should light the ocean on fire and hope it takes out the hippocamp with whatever the fuck these things are," she tells him as she tries to shake the sand out of her hair.

"Yeah, but do you think we could eat this? I mean, we'd have food for a month," Dean says, looking particularly gleeful.

"We're not towing a giant dead crab carcass to the apartment." She understands so much more about Sam with every second she spends with Dean.

"Oh, so free food isn't good enough for you?" Dean asks.

She really, really hates hunting with him.

"Just try to have a conversation with her without insulting her," Sam begs. "Please?"

Dean's giving him that stupid look like he's actually offended by anything Sam says to him anymore. "Dude, I have never insulted one of your girlfriends!"

"You told Cheryl Alison that she looked like a horse!" She broke up with Sam in the middle of the lunch room and told everyone he was homeless. Which sucked and had the added benefit of getting CPS called on them.

"She did look like a horse! And that bitch was fucking evil, Sammy. Stuck-up snob."

Like that makes it any better. Dean and his stupid brand of weirdly honest justice is insane on his best days. "See? That. Don't do that with Jess, Dean. Please?"

"Dude, I like Jess," Dean says. He isn't even lying, either. Sam knows that Dean really does like her. But that won't stop him from being an insulting asshole because he can't think of anything else to say or because she irritates him for any length of time at all.

"Then do me a favor," Sam begs again. "Tell her that."

"I don't know, Sammy," Dean says. "If she thinks she can order the sirloin, why settle for the chicken nuggets?"

Sam laughs before he can stop himself. "Because the sirloin will probably give her herpes?"

Dean looks the perfect levels of insulted and indignant. "Fuck you. I wrap my meat before I put it in the freezer."

"On second thought, take her anywhere but dinner."

"You ruin all my fun."

"Which one of these things says steak?" Dean asks as he looks over the menu. He's going to get Sam for this.

"I have no idea," Jess says. "I don't speak French."

"Why did you pick this place, then?"

"I thought you picked it," she says, giving him a look.

Dean tries not to let just how stupid he thinks that is show on his face. She laughs, so he probably didn't do that good of a job. At least she's not offended. "What did you snort that makes you think I'd pick some place that would make me wear a fucking suit jacket and a tie?"

"I don't know." She smiles, taking a sip of her water and leaning back. "Maybe you were trying to impress me. Sam took me to the most expensive place he could afford on our first date."

"Yeah, that sounds like him," Dean says. Fucking kid; he doesn't listen to a word from Dean about chicks but goes out and copies every stupid fucking movie he sees. "At least he made a good impression."

"No way." Jess laughs. "He was so lucky that he got a second date. I was miserable, and he was so... obnoxious. I mean, now that I know him, I know he was just nervous and couldn't pull his foot out of his mouth, but then? I thought he was some rich, spoiled asshole who was trying to show off."

"Well, you got part of it right."

"...Asshole who was showing off?" Jess asks.

"Spoiled and showing off," Dean says. "He's only a part-time asshole, but he's always the most fucking spoiled kid on the entire planet."

"Yeah, I don't know," Jess says. "Maybe I have a different definition of spoiled than you do, but I think there are a lot of people out there who are a thousand times more spoiled than Sam."

"Trust me," Dean tells her. "That kid is spoiled, and he has no idea. I could spend a week making a list of the reasons and still not be done."

The waiter interrupts them then, but they decide to go somewhere where there isn't a chance they might accidentally order snails or octopus or something else fucking nasty like that.

Even though they didn't order anything and the waiter acted like Dean wiped dog shit on the table, Dean leaves the dude a twenty. Two bucks a minute seems like a fitting going rate for this place.

Jess says she's fine with eating anywhere, so Dean decides to call her bluff and refuses to tell her where they're going.

"Does it ever bother you?" Jess asks a few minutes later. "That Sam got so spoiled and you didn't?"

"You're an only child, right?" Dean can't remember hearing about any brothers or sister from her. "When you have a sibling, it's different than it looks."

"Becca and Zach fight all the time," Jess insists. "Over their parents getting one of them a car but not the other, or having to share things, everything."

"I don't know," he says honestly. "Maybe it's because they're twins or because they're brother and sister and not brothers. With Sam... I'd gladly fucking eat Ramen for a month so he could eat burgers or steak. That's just... he's my little brother, you know? He's Sam." Dean doesn't know how else to say it.

"You're better than you think you are," Jess tells him. "I mean, I'd like to think that if I had a brother or sister, I'd be close to them, but if I were in your position, I'd probably resent the hell out of them."

"You wouldn't," Dean says. Jess is good, and he likes her. Never in a million years does he think she'd be one of those people, the kid who ditched their little brothers and sisters when they were supposed to be watching them or the fucking grown human beings who haven't talked to their own siblings in years. "You would fucking rock at being someone's big sister."

"That is a really weird compliment, but thank you."

They're stuck at a red a few minutes later when Dean's curiosity finally gets the better of him. "How'd he get the second date?"


"You said Sam was a tool on your first date and was lucky to get a second one. Why'd you give him another chance?"

"Have you seen your brother?" Jess asks him, laughing. "There was no way I was going to suffer through that date and not get to see him naked."

"That..." Dean trails off, shaking his head and trying not to picture his baby brother and his baby brother's girlfriend naked together. "That was definitely an overshare."

"Just think." Jess smiles at him. "If your brother hadn't been so weirdly against sex with a virtual stranger, we might not be here right now!"

There's a... it's not an awkward moment. It's just a moment that is somewhat less than normal. Like every other second of Sam's life. Sometimes he swears his life is a series of weird things broken up by uncomfortable things and Dean's nauseating lack of table manners.

See, Sam's been having these dreams. Perfectly normal dreams, if you've already accepted the fact that you want to have sex with your brother until you both chafe. But they're really vivid dreams with lots of tiny details. And it—Dean—

Sam isn't having trouble distinguishing dreams from reality. He isn't. He's not crazy or anything like that. But the dreams are so realistic, and they have all these details, and Sam might not always realize he's dreaming. Sometimes.

In the dreams, they're on the same couch they own now, and his finger gets caught in the hole at the neck of Dean's shirt Dean makes every time he rips the tag out instead of cutting it out. Dean's lips are soft against his, and there's a slightly coppery taste on his tongue from where Dean bit his own cheek while eating half an hour ago.

Dean's nails are digging into the dip of Sam's back, like Dean's trying to make a fist in Sam's skin and pull him closer. Sam can't contain the hungry moan he makes, and he can feel the huff of air across his cheek when Dean laughs at him before diving back in for more. His neck aches a little bit from the angle, and he can feel the pull in his calf muscle from balancing most of his weight on the ball of his foot where it's perched on the floor.

Dean's murmuring mindless nonsense into the skin of Sam's jaw when they break for air, and Sam has just enough time to gasp in a few breaths between Dean's bites before Dean leans in again for more.

But it isn't real, and he hasn't kissed Dean since the last time he did, when he was seventeen and Dean pushed him away and told Sam he was too old to pretend this wasn't fucked up anymore.

And yet, when they're sitting on the couch and Dean bites his cheek because he eats so fast that accidental self-cannibalism is a real worry, there's a moment where Sam has a flash of déjà vu and isn't completely certain whether he had a dream or if he and Dean making out on their couch actually happened.

"It's not a shark," Dean says stubbornly.

"It's a shark," Jess insists. "We're hunting a shark in the middle of the park, and I really love being a hunter sometimes."

"Did that really have to rhyme?" Dean asks.

"No, but it's more fun when it does!" Jess says with a grin.

It is kind of fun, even though Dean insists that if it's on land, it can't be called a shark anymore.

"Ooh, maybe it's in a pool," Jess suggests eagerly. Dean likes a good hunt as much as the next guy, but her enthusiasm is a little scary. "Don't you wanna ask why, Dean?"


"Yeah, you do, come on. Ask me. Ask me why I think it might be in a pool."

"If you keep talking, I'm going to take out your kneecap."

"Maybe it's a pool shark!"

Dean can't stop himself from laughing. He doesn't want to. He really doesn't want to, but he can't help but appreciate a good pun. And Jess's laugh is a little infectious. Or something.

"Maybe it has a deck of cards with it," Jess wonders out loud.

"Okay, now you're just stretching," Dean tells her.

"What if it has a deck of cards, and it's in a pool, but then we chase it onto land?" She's practically bouncing in place.

Before Dean can respond, though, a thing that looks a lot like a shark if a shark could survive out of water and in a California park, falls out of a tree.

No, Dean has no idea what the fuck is going on either.

But then it gets weirder because he and Jess each get off approximately one shot before a tiny brunette girl leaps out of the tree after it and stabs it in its evil, people eating, shark-monster head.

Dean is pretty fucking dumbfounded. Jess seems to be at a loss for words, too. Which is pretty understandable, because, seriously. "What just happened?"

"I just saved your worthless asses from being chum," the brunette tells them. She yanks the blade of her pretty awesome-looking knife out of the shark's head and wipes it off on the sleeve of her jacket before sliding it into what is hopefully not just a normal pocket on the inside of it.

"Hey!" Jess protests. "Who are you calling worthless?"

"The two yahoos who just almost got flattened and eaten by shark."

"Don't say it," Dean tells Jess. And then Jess—the bitchsigns at him. Dean's knowledge of sign language is mostly limited to finger spelling, curse words, and the shorthand signaling that gets used on hunts, but he's pretty sure that was "I told you so."

"I didn't know there was another hunter on campus," Jess says to the girl.

"There are a lot more people like me here on campus than you think," the girl says.

Something about her smile rubs Dean the wrong way and puts him on edge. "So, you're the reason I can find any hunts here on campus, aren't you?

The girl smirks and says, "Oh, I do what I can to help protect our future leaders."

"I'm pretty sure you're a jinx," Dean tells her as they make their way back to the car.

"I am not," she says, shoving Dean sideways. "You're just cursed with hunts."

"I might be." Dean nods. "I blame Sam."

"When in doubt, he's the best one to blame," Jess agrees. "It's those eyes, you know?"

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Dean asks her. "I had to grow up with him. Those eyes developed before he did. He barely talked at all until kindergarten because all he had to do was pout and aim those eyes at you and he got fucking everything."

"I can't tell if that's more adorable or more hilarious," Jess admits.

"Evil," Dean corrects her. "The word you're looking for is evil."

All of a sudden, Jess gasps and yanks at Dean's arm, and Dean immediately tries to maneuver himself between her and whatever it is that she just saw.

Except then Jess tugs at his arm again and pulls him around to face her. "Please, please tell me that you have baby pictures of him! He always said he didn't have any, but I say that about my embarrassing photos all the time, too."

"I might have one or two," Dean admits, trying to force his heartbeat back into normal.

Jess bounces a little. "I will love you forever if you show them to me right now."

Dean's stomach might do a very small, almost unnoticeable, flippy thing that he ignores. "If you wait till we get back, I can show them to you in front of Sam so you can see him turn all red and stupid."

"You might not be as big of an asshole as I thought you were," Jess tells him. She's still got his arm trapped in both of hers, and this time when his stomach flips, it's one that's he's used to.

Though, given, it's one that usually happens after he's let Dad down or embarrassed Sam by existing. Dean just smiles a big smile at her and bites back on the urge to call her a name or shove her away. Sam said he had to play nice, after all.

If he said it out loud, Dean is sure Sam would just pick another fight like he loves to do, but there's something really off to him about everything. There is something fishy going on.

There were no hunts in the area. None. Dean knows this. He spent two weeks trying to find even a hint of a haunting or some kind of hungry monster looking for a gooey human jawbreaker. There was nothing. No hunts. Period.

And then, like something was listening, the moment he said it out loud to Sam, all of a sudden, there were monsters coming out of the fucking woodwork. Still not really any ghosts, but anything with a sniffer or a stomach seems to be descending on Stanford like an all-you-can-eat buffet just opened up.

Dean's gut tells him not to ignore this, but he doesn't really want to say anything, lest he tip off... something. Dad would know what to do.

Unfortunately, Dad is also Dad, and has not answered his phone in a week and a half.

Luckily, most hunters Dean knows rely on Bobby always answering his phones no matter what time of the day or night it is.

Jess's opinion of Dean jumps by about nine hundred points when he breaks Brady's nose. She already has a pretty decent opinion of him before that, but after, with Brady's face a bloody mess and Dean being escorted out of the frat house by a couple of scared linemen? He's only just behind Sam. In points.

In reality, he's in front of the charge while Sam actually leaves Brady to follow Dean.

Brady has always been an obnoxious drunk, and Sam babies him like if he leaves Brady's side, Brady will immediately go get high. Until the hunting thing, pretty much every fight she ever had with Sam was about Brady.

So. Dean earns points for flattening Brady's nose against his drunk face and her eternal gratefulness because Brady is drunk and hurt and bleeding and in pain, and Sam didn't even hesitate to leave him in a bloody mess on the ground.

"What the hell, Dean?" Sam yells once they're outside.

"I want a burger."

"If you drive me to the store, I will bake you whatever pie you want right now," Jess tells him.

Dean stops so suddenly that she's sure Sam's going to walk right into him. He doesn't, though, because on their worst day, they're a thousand percent more like twins than Rebecca and Zach on their best day. "Don't joke about pie, Jessica."

"Don't call me Jessica, Dean," she says. "You need a longer name so that works better."

"Jess, you can't reward him for hitting Brady!"

"Dude, if I lose out on pie because of you, Brady won't be the only one getting his nose reset tonight."

"Stop treating this like a joke!"

"He should be lucky I didn't shoot him!"

"Children! Get in the fucking car before somebody calls campus security!"

"Dude," Dean breathes. "You made her curse. You are so totally not getting laid tonight."

"I didn't make her curse," Sam protests. "You did! Now she's definitely not making you pie."

"Did you two not hear me? Car."

The fact that it's Dean's car and that no one he isn't related to is allowed to drive it sort of saps out a lot of her power.

She's beginning to hate the back seat. And that damn Army man that she never remembers until she sets her arm on its sharp plastic helmet.

"I call shotgun on the way back from the store," she says, rubbing the sore spot on her forearm.

"You can't call shotgun like that," Dean argues.

"Are you really going to bake him a pie?" Sam asks, turning halfway around to face her in the backseat.

"Baby, I love you, and that is the only reason I haven't knocked out all of Brady's teeth by now," Jess says honestly. "I'd make him a medal if I knew how."

"Pie is better. I'd just melt the medal for ammo."

"I would really appreciate it if you two would stop treating this like a joke," Sam says.

"You know what I would appreciate?" Dean asks. "If you ever had a single ex I didn't want to shoot in the junk."

Sam straightens up, shoulders tense and defensive. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Bitch, please," Dean says.

"'Bitch, please'?" Sam repeats, incredulous.

"That's right," Dean says. "That was so fucking stupid it deserved a 'bitch, please.'"

"Is it, like—is it physically impossible for you to not be an asshole?" Sam asks. He looks so hurt that Jess wants to hug him. The seat is a barrier, though, and she has to settle for rubbing his shoulder, which is probably much more awkward than comforting.

"Dude, I'm sorry," Dean starts. "But Jess might be the first person you've banged who I haven't wanted to take out back and beat."

Jess doesn't think he sounds particularly sorry.

"You can't just say things like that, Dean," Sam tells him. He looks angry. Tense in a way she isn't really used to with Sam.

"It's not my fault you have shitty taste. Not including her." He nods to Jess.

"Thank you," she says, giving him her best smile. It's pretty nice knowing she passes Dean's test, especially now that she knows how much he can't stand most people. "But you should probably shut up before Sam hits you."

"What?" Dean turns to Sam again. "Dude, I've never liked anyone you dated; you can't get pissed at me for it now."

"I'm not mad about that," Sam tells him.

"You are totally mad," Dean says.

"I didn't say I wasn't mad; I said I wasn't mad about that."

"Well, then what the fuck are you mad about?" Dean asks, arms spread wide and smacking into Sam's chest.

"Just a guess," Jess interjects. "But probably the violence and the part where we got kicked out of the party."

"That bitch hates parties," Dean tells her.

"I'm right here!" Sam yells.

Jess raises her voice to be heard over the boys. "You're five inches away from each other. Stop screaming!" They ignore her, of course.

"And you're a whiny little bitch who hates parties and throws temper tantrums, so just fucking get it over with."

"I do not throw temper tantrums!"

"You get mad for no fucking reason over stupid shit. That's a temper tantrum."

"Maybe I didn't tell Jess that I liked guys, too, Dean! Did you think of that? Do you even fucking care?"

"He did actually tell me," Jess tells Dean. "A while ago."

"Wait, so then why are you mad?" Dean asks Sam.

"Did you listen to a single fucking word that I said?"

"But she knows!"

"But you didn't know that!"

"So you're mad at me for something I didn't do? Did you hit your head?"

"I'm mad because you don't care!"

"If you could both stop yelling, that would be fantastic," Jess interrupts. She's pretty sure they're going to ignore her, but to her surprise, Dean takes a breath, and when he speaks again, it's in a more normal tone of voice.

"I don't understand a single word that you're saying. Act like I don't speak Pretentious Stanford Douchebag."

"You can't just out people like that, Dean," Sam says. "What if Jess didn't know? What if she didn't know and didn't like it?"

"Then fuck her," Dean spits out. "No offense."

"None taken," Jess says.

Sam sighs. "You're missing the point, Dean."

"No, I'm not, Sam. If you're dating someone and they only like part of you, then you don't fucking need to be dating them. You need someone who likes all the fucking stupid-ass faces you make and the way you drool all over everything in your sleep."

Jess wants to hug Dean. For someone who claims to hate anything having to do with emotions or being even remotely heartfelt, he sure is awesome at it. Sam keeps opening his mouth, starting and stopping a few times.

"I have an actual valid argument," Sam finally starts, sounding much less heated and angry than he did a few minutes ago. "Reasons and everything. But I can't even... I feel like a shithead for even being mad at you now."

"Good," Dean says, like he even understands how amazing of a person he is. He makes Jess wish she had an older brother half as awesome as him. "Then maybe you'll shut your trap so I can get me some pie."

Dean finally pulls away from the curb, what feels like months later, and Sam mutters something she doesn't catch that makes Dean's face light up as he laughs.

"Just for the record," Jess says. "I'm not a huge fan of the drool, but I do kind of like his stupid faces."

"Good," Dean declares. "If you ever stop, I call dibs on you, though."

Jess can't tell whether she should feel flattered or offended, so she settles for a little of both and relaxes into the backseat, trying to decide exactly what kind of pie she thinks Dean will have her make.

Sam wakes up with an intake of air so sharp that he starts choking on it, hacking and coughing until there's a glass of water pushed against his mouth and someone telling him to sip, not chug. The water goes down the wrong way at first because Sam's still trying to calm his heart back down and it feels like he just ran a marathon at a dead sprint.

"Nightmare?" Dean asks with his hand high on Sam's back, ready to smack if Sam starts choking again.

"I hate hunting," Sam croaks out. His voice hurts to use, and it makes him wonder if he'd been screaming in his sleep.

"Good thing you don't do it anymore then, huh?" Dean jokes.

It was so vivid and terrifying that Sam can't shake it from his head. Dean and Jess, they were—they weren't hurt. They were just. Dead. They were alive and saving some guy from some monster Sam's never seen before, and then the guy's eyes were black. Not like he'd been punched—but the iris, the sclera, everything inside went solid, inky black and then...

And then they were dead and bloody and mangled. Something happened, but Sam doesn't know what. It's like his eyes couldn't track it fast enough, but it was a dream, so maybe it's more like his brain couldn't track it fast enough.

"You good?" Dean asks him. His hand isn't on Sam's back anymore, but it's on Sam's shoulder now, rubbing just enough that Dean can claim something stupid if Sam mentions it.

Sam wants to say yes, that he's fine, it was nothing. But his hands won't seem to stop shaking, and he doesn't wanna go back to sleep. "What time is it?" he asks instead.

"Too early to run without getting arrested," Dean tells him. "Wanna learn how to make mac 'n cheese?"

"I know how to make mac 'n cheese," Sam gripes, his voice sounding hollow even to himself.

"No, you know how to nuke frozen mac 'n cheese. Come on," Dean says, standing up and dropping his hand from Sam's shoulder. "Get your lazy ass up, and I'll teach you how to feed yourself."

"I can cook, you know. And even feed myself," Sam points out.

"No, you can make food that is usually more edible than dangerous," Dean corrects him. "I can cook, Sammy. The thing about food is that you shouldn't have to settle for something that tastes like crap just because it will technically fit the bill."

It's really too early for Sam to process that many words in a row right now, but he can't keep the undoubtedly stupid smile off his face anyway. Dean always knows the best ways to fix Sam.

"Wipe that dopey smile off your face," Dean grumbles, standing up and pulling Sam with him. "It's mac 'n cheese, not steak and lobster."

Jess is not hiding.

She's just sitting on the floor in the kitchen because she fears that if she were in the other room with Brady for two more seconds, she might accidentally trip and snap his neck. And then Sam would get mad, and Dean would have to help her dispose of the body, and it would be a whole thing.

"But why are you sitting on the floor?" Dean asks her as he leans against the fridge. He's had the same beer for two hours and hasn't eaten in at least three. Jess is not sure how Dean hasn't kicked Brady out and stolen his pizza already. Probably Sam.

"I don't want my knee to lock," she says. She dislocated it last week, and even though it's back in place, the muscles tend to get stiff if she leaves it in one position for too long.

"Wuss," Dean says, sitting down next to her and pulling her leg into his lap.

"Hey! Skirt here!"

"Whatever," he scoffs. "You've got on underwear."

Jess wants to argue, because seriously, but Dean's got his thumb digging into one of the muscles in her knee, and it hurts in that really good way.

"Do you always moan like that when someone touches your knees? Because you probably shouldn't wear so many skirts if you do."

"Bite me," she tells him, rolling her head onto his shoulder. There's a light scraping at the top of her head that she knows is Dean's teeth because he's that kind of ridiculous. "My shampoo taste that good?"

"No." He blows her hair into her face. "You should buy a different kind."

"Sorry, they were all out of chocolate and beer-flavored at the store."

"If that really exists, no wonder it's sold out," Dean says.

It's a toss-up whether Dean is serious or not, so she errs on the side of caution and doesn't say anything else. "I don't want to be that girlfriend, you know? I don't want to tell him that he can't hang out with his friend just because they used to date."

"But it's not because they used to date," Dean says. "It's because that guy is Gordon Gekko with less morals."

Jess isn't sure who that is, but she appreciates the sentiment all the same. "Who actually throws a party at someone else's place, anyway? What an asshole."

"Hey," Dean says, all mock outrage and offense. "As an asshole, I take offense to being compared to that walking hemorrhoid." His thumb isn't digging in anymore, but the way it's swiping back and forth over her knee feels too good to ask him to stop.

Jess sighs. "He wasn't always like this, you know."

"Are you sure you weren't just blinded by his pearly-whites?"

"No, we were friends. Back when he and Sam were going out. He actually introduced us."

"I thought you said you flattened Sam's nose?"

"Well, yeah," Jess admits. "But after that. With names and no people freaking out and trying to figure out if they should call an ambulance."

"For a broken nose?" Dean asks.

"It was a pretty bad break. Anyway, we were at a party, which is funny because Brady used to hate them. All that loud, shitty music that you couldn't hear anyone over used to drive him nuts. Probably why he didn't put any on here."

"And?" Dean prompts again, nudging her back on track.

"And he introduced us. 'This is my friend, Jess. This is my boyfriend, Sam. Bond over single parents and having weird accents.' We were really good friends, too. I liked Brady."

"Not that I don't think you're awesome for Sam, but I can kinda see why you and Brady might not be blood brothers anymore."

"You mean because I have a vagina and would be someone's sister?"

"Or because his friend and his boyfriend started banging each other," Dean says. "I mean, if I were him, I probably wouldn't be your biggest fan, either."

"It didn't happen like that," Jess says. "He and Sam were long broken up by the time Sam asked me out. And I stopped being friends with Brady way before that."

"But why?"

"He went home for Thanksgiving break and, I don't know. He came out to his family, and they took it badly, and when he came back, it was like he was a completely different person. He started drinking a lot and doing drugs, and cheating on Sam with everyone he could, and just... Sam is the only reason he didn't overdose or flunk out. And then he got his act together, dumped Sam, and turned into this frat boy fun-fest douche."

"And Sam blames himself," Dean says.

"Of course."

"Of course. What a fucking moron."

"You're still not allowed to call Sam names," Jess says as she snuggles into his side.

"I changed his diapers." Dean puts an arm around her shoulder. "I can call him whatever I want."

"You're four years older than him."

"Exactly. You ever seen a five-year-old try to change a shitty diaper? That bitch will never stop owing me as long as he exists."

"You're disgusting," Jess says.

Dean's response, whatever it may have been, is cut off by Zach and his green-haired date coming in to the kitchen for some reason. Zach gives Jess kind of an awkward look, but she can't feel bad. She knows how it looks, but it's Dean. He's handsy, and he's her boyfriend's brother, and she loves Sam. She does not appreciate Zach's... Zach.

"This isn't a restaurant," Dean finally says. "Get back in your cages before I have to break out the hoses."

Zach backs out, still never having said a word, and Dean sits more upright, drawing his hand back from her knee and subtly shifting until there's an empty gap of space between them.

"Come on," he says, getting up and kicking her ankle lightly. "If we leave Sam alone with Shit-For-Brains any longer, he might rush a frat or something."

Sam wakes up choking on air again. He's coughing and wheezing, and it feels like his lungs are on fire. Dean's there with another glass of water again, and this time, he doesn't have to tell him not to chug. The water goes down the wrong way again, and he starts choking, which sets off another cycle of water and coughing until he manages to push the glass away.

"Another nightmare?" Dean asks, rubbing Sam's back lightly.

A cold shiver runs down Sam's back. "Same one," he admits.

Dean slides his hand up Sam's back and into his hair, ruffling it once and then tugging it quickly. "Come on," he says. "I'm gonna teach you how to not fuck up stir-fry."

"I don't think you should go," Sam says in the middle of dinner.

"What?" Jess asks.

"The hunt," Sam clarifies.

"No shit, dumbass," Dean says. "Pretty sure she was asking why we shouldn't go on it."

Sam's pretty confident that telling them that he dreamed them dying on the hunt would not really make them stay. "Because," he says. Intelligently.

"Oh," Dean says. "As long as you have reasons."

"You don't have to be an ass," Jess reprimands him.

"Of course I do," Dean argues.

"Just... let someone else do it," Sam begs them. "Please? I just have a really bad feeling about this."

"You always have a bad feeling about it," Jess points out.

"It's true," Dean agrees. "I'm all for listening to your gut, Sammy, but you always have a bad feeling about our hunts, and they always go off fine."

"Except for the last one where the girl saved herself," Sam points out. "And the one before that where the shark fell out of the tree, and the one where you two ended up hunting a completely different thing than you thought it was."

"You sent us on that hunt," Dean points out.

"In fact," Jess adds, "you made me and Dean go on that hunt."

"That isn't the point," Sam tells her.

"Dude, if you can give me a legitimate reason not to go on the hunt, we'll stay," Dean tells him.

"Someone else can do it," Sam says immediately.

"No, they can't," Jess says. "The nearest hunter is four hours away."

"What about that girl you two didn't save?"

"Don't say it like that," Dean complains.

"I don't have her number or know anything about her. I don't even remember her name," Jess says. "We can't just leave it and hope that she finds the hunt before someone else dies."

"It was some kind of stripper name," Dean says, "Diamond, I think? Besides, she was a tiny chick, and she was here. The hunt we're going on is an hour away."

"It's half an hour," Jess corrects him.

"It's the same thing," Dean says.

"It's really not," Jess says.

"Please," Sam begs them. "I have a really, really bad feeling about this hunt."

"People are dying, Sam," Dean tells him. He sounds sorry, and Sam knows he probably is, but that doesn't make it any better.

Sam's stomach churns, and he can feel his eyes burn a little. He jaw hurts from clenching it, but he's afraid that if he stops, he might do something stupid like cry because every fiber of his being is telling him that if Jess and Dean go on this hunt, he won't see them alive again.

Sam clears his throat once, twice, and tells them, "Then I'm going, too."

Dean and Jess stare. They don't say anything. They just stare.

"I'm sorry, what?" Dean finally asks.

"You heard me," Sam says. "If you two won't stay, then I'm going on the hunt with you."

It's the same guy, and it's the same thing.

It's the exact same guy as in his dream, and it's the exact same monster.

Sam has never seen either of them before. He's heard of dire wolves, and he's seen actual wolves, but never before in his life has he actually seen a gigantic, intelligent, man-eating wolf before now. Except in the nightmare he's been having basically every time he closed his eyes for the last week.

The guy has the same ripped Superman shirt, the same skinned knee, and the same cut along his face, and Sam does the worst thing he can possibly do and just freezes. It's only for a second, but it's long enough that the dire wolf notices.

Even the brainless monsters know that a stationary target is an easier snack than a moving one, and then all of a sudden, everything goes to hell.

The dire wolf leaps at Sam. Sam tries to aim his gun, but before he can even get it eye-level with the giant monster of a wolf, he's on his back, and he can feel its claws digging into his chest, and Sam knows this is it.

Then the wolf—the giant, monstrously huge in every sense of the word, dire wolf—yelps like a puppy that just got their tail stepped on and is suddenly off of him and in a dead heap next to him with its neck snapped. The guy they're supposed to be rescuing—in the Superman shirt, with eyes that look completely normal now but were black like oil in Sam's dreams—is standing over the body.

"What the fuck was that?" Dean roars.

The guy, who clearly did not need saving, ignores him and looks at the blood on Sam's chest. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Sam answers, forcing himself up. He isn't, really; he just got his chest punctured by a fucking dire wolf. But he isn't dead, and, also, this guy killed Dean and Jess in his dream, so Sam's not about to offer up signs of weakness. "What just happened?"

"You were a hair away from being a Scooby Snack," Jess tells him.

"Do yourself a favor," the guy who isn't Superman starts out. He's still talking to Sam and hasn't given any kind of indication that he can even hear Dean or Jess. "Try not to let yourself get eaten, okay?"

"We're still here, right?" Dean asks, turning to Jess. "We didn't get killed?"

"You're here," Sam tells them, not taking his eyes off the guy he really hopes won't still try to kill them.

"Yes, you're here, they're here; life is all flowers and puppies," Bizzaro Superman says. "But really, you should probably put some more work into your workout before you decide to hunt again."

"Dude," Dean starts. "Exactly how many fucking hunters go to your college?"

The guy finally looks away from Sam to shoot a disgusted look at Dean. "There's no need for insults," he says. And then he just. Vanishes. He's there, and then he isn't, and Sam is probably a little shocky because the gouges in his chest don't hurt, but he's almost positive he didn't just black out while the guy walked away.

"What the fuck?" Jess asks.

Somehow, they make it back to the car. Sam's brain feels like it's made out of Jell-O, and he just cannot deal with this night. The nightmares were shitty, and then they were scary, and then they were apparently real. Or not, because instead of killing his brother and his girlfriend, the guy saved his life.

Dean backhands Sam in the chest—not hard, but right over a bleeding wound—and Jess instantly reaches over the back of the seat and smacks the back of Dean's head hard enough for it to make a sound.

"Are you fucking listening to me, Sammy?" he barks.

"Did that really happen?" Sam asks.

"Yes, it did," Dean tells him. "Wanna tell me why?"

"Leave him alone," Jess insists. "He just got knocked on his ass."

"No, fuck that," Dean yells. "You don't freeze, Sammy! What is rule number fucking one of hunting? What is it?"

"Don't—" Sam starts.

"That's right, it's don't fucking die!" Dean cuts him off.

"Stop yelling," Jess orders. "We're right here, and you're going to blow out my eardrum."

"What the fuck, Sam?" Dean asks again, noticeably quieter this time.

"I don't..." Sam trails off. He can't even explain it, doesn't know where to start. "I don't know. I guess I'm more out of the game than I thought."

"You guess you're more out of the game than you thought?" Dean asks incredulously.

"Yeah," Sam lies. "I saw it, and it was like everything slowed down."

"Bullshit," Dean says.

"It's not—"

Dean cuts him off again, though, and for a moment Sam curses that Dean knows him so well.

"Dude, if you don't freeze watching a werewolf eat someone's fucking heart, then a wolf sure as fucking isn't gonna make you shake in your boots."

"Dire wolf," Jess points out from the backseat. Dean whips his head around to glare at her, and Sam can see the reflection of the giant, wide smile she gives him in the rearview mirror.

"Don't fucking lie to me, Sammy," Dean says.

Sam doesn't want to lie to Dean. He can't think of a lot of things he would like to do less than lie to Dean, but he can barely wrap his brain around everything right now.

"Okay," Sam starts. "You know those dreams I've been having?"

"You mean the nightmares where you wake up screaming like I'm trying to take away all your books?" Dean asks. "Yeah, I remember them."

"Well, it was that," Sam says.

"Freezing?" Jess asks.

"No," Sam corrects her. "It wasn't freezing. It was that. The dire wolf was attacking that guy, and then you two saved him, but instead of saying thank you, he killed you both. Snapped your necks, I think."

"It was just a nightmare, Sam," Dean tells him. Sam can hear the force in his voice, though, and he knows that Dean knows it wasn't just a bad dream about a similar situation.

"No, Dean. I don't think it was," Sam says. "It was exactly the same. Exactly. It was the same guy in the same shirt with the same hair and the exact same dire wolf barreling down on him. And when I saw it, I just. I—I don't know—I couldn't move or think. I just freaked out."

Dean doesn't respond to that. Neither does Jess. Sam isn't really surprised, though. There's not a whole lot to say to that.

It's a good five minutes later before Jess speaks. "So... are we just not going to talk about the guy who killed the four hundred pound wolf with his bare hands and then vanished into thin air?"

"Nope," Sam and Dean say at the same time.

It's a long drive back.

They ignore the giant neon elephant in the room for a while. They ignore a few of them, if Sam's being honest with himself—which he's been trying out, for a change—but this is the most recent and obvious one. That they all know about.

It's even worse—bigger—than Sam realized because after the wolf and the guy, he starts thinking and paying attention. And he didn't before, really. Everyone has things happen to them that they're sure they've dreamed before. There's even a term for it, he thinks. But there are pop quizzes that he's studied for that had nothing to do with the chapters they had been reading, and he saw that girl from his class get bitten by her boyfriend before she ever came to class with that giant bandage. There are tiny things and really big things—like the crab hunt that he convinced himself he didn't actually dream about—and Sam is just so overwhelmed and freaked out.

Sam loves Jess. He loves the way she rubs his back when he's sick and the way she laughs too loud and obnoxious when he's too hungover to function and the way she draws patterns on his arm or leg or stomach early in the morning when she thinks he's still asleep. But he just wants to curl up in Dean's lap like he did when he was so little that he barely has memories. He wants Dean to stroke his hair and tell him it'll be okay like he used to when Sam would have nightmares about his kindergarten teacher eating all the children in class like the evil witch in Hansel and Gretel. But all that does is make Sam remember how fast they moved and wonder if he was right and how long he's been seeing things before they happened.

It makes him wonder if Dad knows, or knew, and if that was why Sam could sometimes barely go to the bathroom alone without Dad throwing a fit.

Sam starts sleeping on the couch. It's a halfway tactical thing. He doesn't really trust himself to sleep in a bed next to Dean right now and not reach for comfort in some form or another, and Jess doesn't deserve that. At the same time, he doesn't want to kick Dean to the couch right now so that Jess can give him the comfort he wants from Dean. None of them deserve that.

So Sam takes the couch.

But Dean knows Sam better than he knows himself, and so Dean camps out on the floor. And Jess is more like Dean than Sam ever realized, because instead of spending more nights at the suite she technically still lives in, she camps out right next to Dean, and they tell Sam that they're there for him without any words.

And when he wakes up terrified with eyes burning from tears he doesn't want to fall, Jess is on his right and Dean is on his left, and Jess leans her head on his shoulder while Dean teaches them both how to make spaghetti sauce that doesn't come entirely from a jar.

They're in the grocery store when Dean's cell phone rings. Doing actual, honest-to-whatever grocery shopping. Their cart has food in it. Four boxes of cereal, two gallons of milk, food that takes more than a can opener and a microwave to make, and fruits and vegetables in little plastic bags so grubby little cart germs don't get on them.

Sam is pushing the cart because he won't let Dean have control of it, and Dean is giving Jess a piggyback ride through the store because Sam is pushing the cart and she kicks it when he gives her a piggyback while pushing.

His phone rings, and just like every other time Dad calls, Dean almost lets it go to voicemail because he doesn't recognize the ringtone. He catches it on the fifth ring, though, and gets it out and answered without giving either himself or Jess a concussion. He ignores the flash of guilt—isn't even sure who he feels like he's betraying more—and lets Jess down so he can go out front and talk away from bitchfacing little brothers.

The only thing he can even think to say first is, "Dad."

"Dean," he says. "Where are you?"

"Uh, Stanford?" Dean doesn't really know why that comes out as a question. He isn't hiding anything.

"Where specifically?" Dad asks. There's an impatient tone in his voice and almost a growl to it. He sounds like he usually does after Dean's made one too many jokes at the sheriff and got them the cold shoulder from the deputies.

"A grocery store in Palo Alto. Vons, I think," Dean says.

"Good," Dad says. There's this relieved sigh to his voice when he says it that makes the hair on Dean's arms stand on end. "Sammy's with you, right?"

"And Jess."

"Okay. Okay, that's good," he says again. "Do not leave that building until it hits the hour."

"An hour from now or the hour?" Dean asks as he tries to nonchalantly make his way back into the building.

"The hour. When you leave, you go right back to your apartment, and none of you leave until Bobby calls and tells you you can, okay?"

"Go ho—back and don't leave, got it."

"Buy a couple of bags of rock salt if you don't have any left, at least two. You're gonna need about a dozen Sharpies, some rubber cement, a couple of gallon jugs for water, and a throw rug."

"A throw rug?" Dean asks, pausing. He's got the makeshift shopping list scrawled over a weekly ad from the front door. But even with the giant porch swing for sale in front of the store, Dean doesn't know if buying a rug here is even possible. "Do they sell those in grocery stores?"

"Some of them, yeah. And if you can find some water guns, grab those, too. Big ones and the little ones. If you can't find any, grab something with a spray bottle—make sure there's enough for each of you."

"Water guns and spray bottles, got it."

"Get a welcome mat, too, if you don't have one. Something with an underside you can draw on, none of that weird knitted shit."

"Dad, I gotta—what's going on?"

"There's no time for that right now, Dean. Just do what I say and don't forget." The line clicks dead before Dean can say anything else.

The rest of the day turns into a shit-show. When Dean tells Sam about the call, Sam picks a fight—like he does best—and Jess just gives him a look like she's so damn disappointed in his existence. And then, because Dean didn't know they were going to need extra cash and using cards with different names on them at a place you go once a week is just plain stupid, they end up having to put back everything in their cart.

And Dean still has to steal the Sharpies just to make sure they get everything.

They rubber cement rocksalt along the window jambs and above the door. And then, as if that isn't fucked up enough, they bless six gallons of water and fill super soakers with more. Jess uses some pictures Bobby e-mails her and draws some sort of ridiculously complicated design on the bottom of their new throw rug.

Bobby's call was only marginally more informative than Dad's, and he put them on lockdown until FedEx could finish overnighting some brand new necklaces to them that they were not to remove while outside of their apartment.

Dean knows his place—and it sure as fuck isn't to question Dad or Bobby—but a very, very tiny, insignificant part of him might have agreed a little with all of Sam's whiny cry-baby bitching about no one telling them what exactly it is they're hiding from.

Not completely disagreeing does not necessarily make the next thirty-something hours any easier, though.

And besides, it's not like it even crossed his mind to tell Dad about Sammy's fucking—his whatever. His dreams.

They don't get to leave the apartment for two days, and by that time, they're all so stir-crazy that Sam actually actively looks for a hunt for them to go on so that they have an excuse to shoot things.

It wasn't even staying inside so much as it was being told they couldn't leave. Jess is pretty sure Dean was gonna go Shawshank on the walls if he had to go another night without daylight.

"I gotta tell you, Sammy," Dean starts, pausing to lean on his shovel and huff out a couple of breaths. "...What do I gotta tell you?"

"Really?" Sam asks, leaning on his own shovel.

"Shut up," Dean grumbles, shoveling more dirt out of the grave.

Jess is still shovel-free for another ten minutes, so she's playing lookout until Dean stops being a stubborn ass and gives up his. It mostly involves standing there and trying not to bore herself to sleep. "Did your dad or Bobby say what these pendants are for?"

Dean makes a face at her, which is uncalled for. "Nope."

Sam scoffs and makes a sound that sounds a lot like disgust. "Did you even ask?"

"No," Dean snaps back. "And you know why? Because I actually fucking trust the man who kept us alive for twenty fucking years."

"Hey!" Jess yells, interrupting them. "Knock it off! If you two are actually going to fight over something as stupid as this, I'm going to take your shovels and beat you to death with them. And, might I remind you, you're standing in an open grave. If I fill it in, no one will know where to look for either of you."

It's a few minutes before either of them talk again. Dean, of course, is the one to break the silence. "Your girlfriend is a fucking psycho, dude."

Jess smiles and takes it for the compliment it is.

"Wait, Monsters, Inc. is a cartoon?" Dean asks, reading the back of the DVD case.

"It's not a cartoon. It's an animated movie," Jess says, stealing a few pieces of licorice and climbing into Sam's lap.

"About monsters. For children."

"It's kind of a cute movie," Sam admits. There's a pretty solid chance that Dean will mock him for this forever. "Funny."

"It's a movie about monsters," Dean repeats. As if they might not have heard him the first time. Or seen the movie they own. "Teaching children not to be afraid of them."

"Yes, Dean, it is," Sam says slowly. "Most people don't know about monsters and don't want their kids to be scared of things they don't know are real."

"Most people are teaching their kids how to get killed," Dean says. Like Sam's the one who made the movie.

"If you both don't stop talking right now, I'm going to put on Lilo & Stitch," Jess warns them.

"What's that?" Dean asks Sam in what he probably thinks is a whisper.

"A movie about kids with no parents," Sam tells him. "Shut up and let her watch this movie."

"Come on," Dean says. "Don't you wanna come watch me make our rent?"

Sam's got the kitchen table covered in books and papers and his laptop. He has four highlighters and two pencils and just shoots Dean a prissy look in response. "What?" Dean asks. "You can do that later."

"Dean, I need to write this paper. I've put it off long enough, and I only have a few days left."

"It's one paper," he says, ignoring Jess's snort from her spot on the couch. "Come on, Sammy, how hard can it be?"

"Well, the title of my paper is Instances Where the Supreme Court Has Held Cases Which Decided Constitutional Issues In Which No Defense Was Raised."

Dean gives up trying to figure that out after a few seconds. "Sounds easy."

"Write it for me without flunking me out, and I'll go with you," Sam challenges.

"Or, and here's an alternative, I could pay someone to write it for you."

"How do you think Sam makes his half of the rent?" Jess asks, laughing.

"Did he tell you he pays rent?"

"Dean, go away. If I flunk out, I'm going to key your car."

He knows Sam isn't serious because that would be the last thing Sam ever did. At least with his hands. Sam could live a mostly full life after Dean chopped his hands off. "Hey, Jess—"

"No," she says.

"Don't you wanna go distract dumbass college boys with your tits?"

"Yeah, but Sam's on a sex strike until he finishes his paper, so I'm just gonna go get girl drink drunk with Liz and Becca instead."

"Like in a bar? Possibly one with a pool table and drunk idiots who might try to up their bets if they think it could improve their chances with the hot chicks at the table next to them?"

"Not going to happen," she says.

"Why not?"

"Because you have a penis and girls have vaginas," Sam says from his little nerd hutch.

"Did you just quote Kindergarten Cop at me?" Dean asks him. "Do your fucking paper, Poindexter."

"Children," Jess mutters.

"Come on, Jess. Jessica. Blondie," he begged.

"Every time you and Liz are in the same bar together, all you do is try to get more numbers than each other," she says. "And then you spend days pouting because she wins."

"She cheats! She plays up that whole 'I look like a dude' thing and gets phone numbers from the single chicks and gay guys."

"You get phone numbers from the gay guys, too," Jess points out.

"Yeah, but I can't pass as a chick and hit on lesbians," Dean complains. It's an uneven playing field. "If you say one word," Dean starts before Sam can say anything, "I will tell everyone you know about St Steven's."

Oh, it's so awkward. It's so fucking awkward. Jess—her brain—it just.

She thought it was Sam. She thought Dean had convinced Sam to come hustle pool or dragged him out to the bar to get drunk or something, and she thought it was Sam.

Then Dean shoved him against the car, and she could swear she could hear the wet noises of them kissing, and it was so insanely hot, and then she looked closer, and she realized it wasn't Sam, and then her brain just stopped. Grinded to a flailing halt, shut down, and rebooted because, no. No. No, no, no—just no.

It's not supposed to work like that. She's not supposed to think it's hot when she thinks her boyfriend and his brother are making out. And Jess sure as fucking hell isn't supposed to look closer. And, really, why the fuck did Jess's brain decide to wait until she realized it was Dean and some random guy who looked like Sam to freak out?

What the fuck? That's not how it goes. It's supposed to be gross and fucking wrong because it's incest, and Flowers in the Attic was a book, not real life, and her brain got thrown in reverse or something.

Dean making out with some random guy isn't supposed to make her stomach turn. He looked like Sam! Dean making out with some guy who looks like his little brother—that is the big thing. That should be the big thing. Not it being some random stranger.

Jess is going to go back home—where Dean will clearly not be for a while if he's out banging random strangers—and drink all of the alcohol in the apartment.

Everything just starts to fucking fall apart at once.

Sam doesn't know what happened, if he pissed something off or whatever, but it's like a snowball rolling downhill. Sam comes back from the library, and Jess is sloppy drunk on the couch; one of his hoodies is covering her like a blanket, and she's sobbing over Legally Blonde and complaining that everyone is being so mean to Elle. And, okay, that's pretty much what Jess does when she's drunk. But she actually kicks Sam when he tries to comfort her this time, and then in the morning, she's gone.

The Jess stops talking to Dean. And then she starts ignoring Sam in class and spending all her time in her suite, and Sam is too afraid to think too hard about what that might mean. And then Zach stops talking to Sam for more than two minutes between classes—because he might be Sam's friend, but he's Becca's twin, and she's Jess's roommate. Zach tries to explain it, but mostly Sam just smiles and nods like he gets it.

It feels like fourth grade again, when Dad shaved his and Dean's heads and no one in school wanted to talk to him anymore because everyone said he had lice and didn't shower.

And then Brady stops coming over—which Sam is pretty sure Dean would throw a party over, if not for the fact that, once again, Dean is the only person who likes Sam.

It's okay, though. Sam is fine. So what if Jess went from seemingly loving Sam to not even being able to look him in the eye in the span of three days? So what if she won't return his phone calls or texts? It's only been a week. It isn't the end of the world.

Sam just... wishes he knew what he did wrong. He didn't think he was being too clingy, and he's tried hard—he's tried so hard—to not stare at Dean too much or talk about the visions he keeps having that he knows freak Jess and Dean out so much more than they let on.

Jess is not expecting Dean when she opens the door. She should have, though, really. Liz and Becca are finally gone at the same time after a week of trying to nurse her through a breakup she keeps telling them has not actually happened. And if they're convinced, then Zach is probably convinced and has probably tried to give Sam the sympathy shoulder, and Dean's probably wants her dead now for hurting Sam.

Which is just so funny that Jess could vomit all over the floor.

She doesn't invite Dean in, but she can't look at him, and if her eyes happen to slide away towards the inside of the suite instead of the outside, then maybe it's just her subconscious trying to punish her more.

"You know Sam loves you," Dean says. He sure doesn't beat around the bush.

"I didn't break up with him." Her voice sounds a little more watery than she would like, and she can feel the itch of tears trying to sting at the backs of her eyes, but considering that she honestly can't figure out who in this room she hates more, she thinks she's doing pretty good.

"You might wanna tell him that," Dean scoffs. "You won't talk to him or answer his calls, and every so called 'friend' he had has jumped ship because they think he fucked you over or something."

Jess's stomach churns more because she is even more of a bad guy in this than she thought. "I keep telling them we didn't break up."

"Good for you. Maybe you should tell your boyfriend that."

Jess laughs. It's mostly hysteria with just a tinge of detached amusement that this is her life right now. She drops herself down onto the couch and tries to wipe away the tears before they actually make it down her face. The couch dips right next to her, even though there is plenty of room on it, because Dean doesn't know what personal space is unless he doesn't like you. She can see his finger twisting the ring on his thumb back and forth like he does when he's nervous.

"You know..." Dean trails off. "I know I make it seem like he'd die on his own, but Sam'd be a great dad."

It takes her a beat to figure out where that pop-fly just came from. "I'm not pregnant, you idiot!"

"Are you sure?" Dean asks.

"Would you like me to explain to you how I know I'm not pregnant?"

"No!" Dean says quickly. "No, that's fine. I'll take your word for it. But if you're not knocked up, then why did you break up with Sam?"

"I didn't," she says again. "I just... I can't look at him."

"Well, yeah." Dean laughs, nudging her with his elbow and shooting her a sly little smile that should make her want to hit him. "I know he's hideously disfigured, but you've been doing pretty good staring at him without throwing up so far."

Her skin should be crawling. She should be disgusted and sick and want Dean as far away from her as humanly possible. But she just wants to turn and curl up in his arms so he can fix it for her like he fixes everything for Sam. "I thought I saw you making out with Sam."

Dean stops. The smile drops off his face, and he shifts away from her. His hand rubs at his mouth, his chin, his jaw, his other hand, and he can't seem to figure out what to do with himself. "It wasn't Sam, I swear."

"Yeah, I know." She laughs humorlessly. "And now I can't look at him because I kind of didn't mind it when I thought it was him, and I have no idea what is wrong with me."

"I can leave," Dean says, and she knows he doesn't just mean the suite. Jess doesn't know what to say because she doesn't want him to. Sam loves his brother so much, and she's pretty sure that Dean never did anything to Sam because Sam can barely stand his father, and all they did was scream at each other nonstop.

But. She isn't sure if she honestly believes that or just wants to believe that because she's just as disgusting a human being as those women you hear about on the news who stay with men that ruin their children's lives. Except maybe she's worse in a way because Dean isn't her boyfriend, Sam is, so she might be taking the wrong side and deluding herself for someone she doesn't even have that kind of a connection to.

"I want you to disgust me," she quietly admits.

"If it makes it any easier for you, I disgust myself plenty."

Jess leans her head on his shoulder, taking just as much comfort from the movement as she's giving.

Sam comes back from his Sex and Love in Modern Society class to find Jess asleep on the couch. She's got one leg kicked over the back and the rest of her body practically trying to wedge itself between the seat cushions and the back. Her hair was at one point in some kind of bun, but now it looks like just some kind of loose twist near her shoulders.

Sam wants very few things more than to go sit on the edge of the couch and play with her hair until she wakes up. But he doesn't know if he's allowed to do that anymore, so instead, he goes into the kitchen and gets himself a beer and retreats to the bedroom to study. Dean wakes up long enough to call him a little bitch for hiding, and Sam knows he's right, so he doesn't even bother to get mad.

He's two pages into a paper he has due eventually when Dean wakes up from his nap and shuffles out of the bed. A few moments later, there's a thump coming from the living room, followed by another thump and Dean cursing. Then Jess appears in the doorway. Her hair is a mess, she has no makeup on, and there are sleep lines on her face from where her shirt-sleeve folded under her cheek.

She doesn't apologize, and Sam doesn't ask her to because he has no idea if either of them have anything to apologize for. Jess shimmies out of her jeans and pulls off her shirt and climbs into the spot where Dean was just sleeping, laying her head on the pillow he had been mumbling into minutes ago.

They don't have sex that night, and she doesn't look him in the eye, but Sam sleeps better than he has in a while, and he only hates himself a little in the morning when he wakes up disappointed that Dean isn't there with Jess.

Everything isn't magically fixed. She has to make a conscious effort to look Sam in the eye when she talks to him, and she wants to flinch when she does it because she can't stop thinking about Dean and that guy and how hot it was when she thought it was Sam.

It's like an infection. Once she gets the thought in her head, no matter how badly she doesn't want it there, she can't stop seeing it everywhere. It's like Remus and Sirius, or the trio —every touch is suddenly something more, every look seems to linger and last just a hair longer than normal.

Dean and Sam sit practically on top of each other, which they always have, but it's like all the empty space next to them on the couches and benches seem to light up in neon now. When Sam zones out in the middle of thinking, his eyes stay rooted to Dean's hands, or the beer bottle Dean's drinking from, or the pen cap he's gnawing on.

Jess isn't worried that she's just some kind of beard for Sam's incestuous love or something stupid like that. When he's tired, he still has trouble remembering not to talk directly to Jess's chest, and the way he kisses her neck when she's cooking is anything but fake.

But there's a difference between reading a book or watching a movie and slashing the hell out of all the characters in it and your brain betraying you and trying to use your goggles to tell you that incest is totally hot.

A Few Good Men is halfway in—no commercial breaks, thank you, HBO—when the door slams closed and Dean hears Sam's bike clatter to the floor. Before Dean can even react to the noise, he's being pressed into the couch, heavy weight settling on his legs and Sam's mouth sucking at his neck.

Sam's hands are everywhere, pushing at Dean's shirts and sliding into his hair and holding his face still, moving dizzyingly fast like he can't make up his mind. Dean tries to get his attention, gasping out Sam's name as Sam grinds into him, but Sam just takes the opportunity to dive in for a kiss, and holy fuck, Dean has missed Sam's stupidly talented tongue way more than he realized.

He pushes Sam away. Or, at least, he tries to. Sam is strong and big and physically has an advantage over Dean in this position, so all it ends up doing is getting Sam to move back just enough to roll his hips against Dean, sending sparks flying through Dean's brain in time with the thrusts.

Dean's head is being angled back by Sam's hands, and somehow, Sam has learned how to become an even better kisser in the years since the last time. And it's that thought right there that kicks Dean's brain into gear and makes him realize that this is something that is actually happening right now, not some kind of dream or anything. Dean's got his hands locked on Sam's hips, forcing them back because Sam has Jess, and he wouldn't do this, hasn't wanted it in years, and there's got to be something wrong, but Dean doesn't know what.

Sam whines low in his throat—a sound that, for all Dean's mocking and bitching, he has never heard Sam make before—and keeps pushing his hips into Dean's hands, rocking against nothing and trying mindlessly to find some kind of friction, something to get him off.

"Sammy," Dean mumbles, trying to angle his head far enough out of Sam's reach to see how bad Sam's eyes must be glazed. "Sam," he says again, more forcefully this time.

Sam sounds needy and desperate when he responds with a drawn out, "Dean," and it makes Dean rear back because Sam has never been needy a day in his life. He always seemed to resent having to learn how to drive instead of just knowing or not understanding calculus without Dean showing him tricks.

There's a flash of dark blue at the corner of his vision, and Dean's brain has a flash second of stop using my towel before he realizes Jess is standing there watching her boyfriend climb all over his disgusting brother like he's gonna give Sam the lead in the movie if he just shows off his skills.

"Take him," Dean tells her, pushing Sam more forcefully and trying to climb backwards over the couch to escape the train wreck this day is quickly becoming. Jess is still standing there, eyes wide—not that Dean can blame her. Brother on brother isn't really something you see every day. Unless you're into specialty porn. Dean uses his hunt voice to get her attention. "Jess! He can't stop; grab him!"

Jess finally kicks her brain into gear, or at least lets the autopilot take over, and moves towards Sam, getting an arm around his chest and pulling him up and backwards, which gives Dean just enough room to scramble backwards over the couch in the most undignified way possible. He lands on his back with a thunk and immediately scrambles back up before staging a strategic retreat to the bedroom and the shower in it.

It takes willpower, but he manages to make it through the entire shower without thinking of Sam or his mouth or his cock or what he and Jess are probably doing right this moment on the couch.

It's still light out when Sam wakes up. His head doesn't hurt, but his shoulder and back feel like they're on fire, though rolling onto his stomach dulls the fire to a sting. He wishes he were hung over or drunk or had anything but a completely clear memory of trying to force himself on Dean, of begging Jess to let him follow Dean into the bedroom or wherever it was he had gone.

Sam wants to bury his head under the pillow and stay there until he's sure he can fake having no memory of the last few hours. He doesn't, though, because he has screamed at John Winchester and lived to tell the tale, so he can do anything. First, though, he needs clothes. And to wipe himself off.

For a split second, Sam almost tries to put on his best Dean face, but this isn't the time for it. This is the time to beg for forgiveness and hope that he hasn't just ruined everything good in his life in one fell swoop. Jess has only just come back, and Dean shoved him away the last time Sam kissed him.

There's a map on the kitchen table, and Dean and Jess are standing over it, talking quietly and pointing at it. He feels completely mortified, and the prospect of having to have them look at him makes him a little nauseous. Sam clears his throat, but before he can open his mouth, Dean cuts him off.

"You passed out," Dean tells him. His tone gives no room for argument. "You came home, and you passed out, and now we have to figure out what it was that made you come here and pass out."

Sam's honestly a little relieved to hear Dean's denial. If he's pretending it didn't happen, then maybe he won't leave, and Sam won't have to try to convince him to stay. "I—" Sam clears his throat of the wobble that was in it and starts again. "I was on my bike. I took a different route than usual, but one I've done before. I don't know if I crashed my bike because I... was going to pass out, or if I crashed it first."

Dean nods, all business in a way he hasn't been in a long time. Focused solely on the hunt like he only ever used to be after one went bad and landed him or Dad in the hospital. "You know where you wiped out?"

Sam's avoiding even looking in Jess's direction. "Yeah, it was..." Sam trails off, trying to pinpoint it on the map. "There are these estates? Right around here." He points on the map. "There're a couple that all open up to the road and just have little signs instead of huge gates. It's right by there."

"Good, good," Dean says. "We can probably find out where exactly you ate it pretty easily, since you left most of your back behind with you."

Sam knows he's not part of the "we" this time. It makes sense. You get hit with something that robs you of the ability to control yourself, and you don't get to go back because who knows what will happen if you do. Not that he minds, really, right now. He doesn't like the feeling hindsight gives him. When it was happening, he was frantic, but he wanted it. He wanted it so bad he couldn't think about not having it, but now that he's rational again, it terrifies him to think about what almost happened.

What he could have done.

"Can I—"

"Sam, no," Dean says, answering the wrong question. It makes Sam's stomach churn a little.

"No, I just need to talk to Jess," he says.

"Right, right. I'll go check the supplies," Dean says, rushing out like his car's being towed. "Fifteen minutes, and I'm leaving alone," he throws back, closing the door.

Sam finally dares to look in Jess's direction. Much like has been happening since Jess came back, she can't seem to keep her eyes on him for more than a second or two at a time. Maybe this was why she left in the first place. He doesn't think he'd had any of those kinds of dreams about this, but what if he did and didn't remember? What if he talked during it? Or, more accurately, what if he moaned out Dean's name like some horny "straight" guy in gay for pay porn?

"Oh, oh, Sam, don't cry, come on," Jess begs him, cupping his cheek with her hand

He isn't crying, thank you very much. He might pierce his lip with his own tooth, but as long as he doesn't actually cry like a three-year-old, that's okay. "Jess."

"You can't cry, Sam." She thumbs away tears that aren't falling yet. "You're a fucking hideous crier," she says, making him laugh. "If you cry, I'm gonna have to go and get drunk just so I don't have that ugly face haunting my mind through the hunt."

"Gee, I love you too," he says, smiling even though—maybe a little because—he knows it'll push a tear or two out of his eyes.

"You're repulsive," Jess says, kissing him and pulling away. "Dean's going to leave without me." Her eyes are still darting away, though not like they were before.

"Be safe," Sam tells her.

"I will be," Jess says as she closes the door.

Jess can feel the sting of the tree's bark digging into her scalp, but it barely registers above the drag of Dean's nails along her legs as he pulls them up around his waist. She bites down, sucking at the skin of his neck as he moans filth into her ear about all the things he wants to do to her.

She arches and wishes his hair were longer so she could grab a fistful of it and tug, but she settles for scrabbling at the back of his neck, then his arms, his shirt, his chest, then back to his arms. Jess wants it all, everything, and she feels like she's going to explode if she doesn't get it right now. She can't decide what she wants first, can't get still or think straight.

Dean can't seem to either, hands roaming over her body, cupping her chest, thumb rubbing over her nipple just long enough to make her squirm and then moving on to her back, her legs, her face, the button on her jeans that won't come undone in the two seconds he tries to fumble with it.

She wants her bra off, needs it off, but when she arches and gasps Dean's name, his hand gets caught between her flannel and spaghetti strap, and Jess digs the heel of her boot into the base of his spine, urging him closer, closer, until she can wrap her arms around his neck.

Her breath is speeding up, coming fast as everything starts overwhelming her, and she presses her face into Dean's neck, sucking more bruises into the skin and biting her way up to his ear where she can tug on it, nipping and telling him how bad she wants him, his cock, those long fingers of his, that fucking talented tongue he's always bragging about. How wet it got her, seeing him and Sam together, how Sam begged so pretty and called her Dean when they were alone.

Dean's growling at her throat, harsh and guttural, and thrusting against her, shoving them both into the tree, and the last thing Jess remembers before she blacks out is her toes curling in her boots and Dean's voice in her ear, telling her how fucking pretty she must have looked with Sam's cock in her.

"I thought you said you'd be safe," is the first thing Jess hears when she wakes up. Sam makes sure of it. She groans and buries her face in the crook of her arm.

"Your brother wanted to take a shortcut," she says. Sam can tell exactly when everything comes flooding back to her because she just stops moving. He's weirdly okay with what happened—except for the part where he had to change them out of their clothes. It's one thing to have almost-wet dreams about them and be okay with it. But Sam didn't really anticipate the complete lack of anger or jealousy he feels right now.

Part of that might be because he knows they had as much control over themselves as he did yesterday, but another part, a louder part, says that that isn't all. "Yeah, I kinda figured it was something like that."

He waits for her to ask what happened or how she got back home, but she just keeps her arm over her face.

"Baby?" he asks, resisting the urge to touch her. He doesn't want to overstep himself here, and even though the witch sounded like she was telling the truth, not being able to control yourself is still pretty fucking terrifying.

"I'm so sorry," she finally says. "I cheated on you, Sam."

"You didn't," he tells her. Cheating requires mens rea—a guilty mind—and she sure as hell didn't plan this. "You got dosed with magical anti-repression Viagra."

"What?" Jess asks, finally dropping her arms from her face to stare at him.

"Well, the witch who owns the land with the trees on it? She found you and Dean." Sam doesn't miss Jess's wince. "And she felt really bad that she forgot to turn off her trees, so she found my number in your phones and called me. And then she made you an 'I'm sorry you trespassed and my trees tried to pet you' cake."

"What the fuck?"

"I guess the trees have, like, off buttons or something. But she had, uh." Sam coughs, trying not to picture the witch naked with a dozen of her friends. "Friends over and forgot to turn them back off or something. She said she was sorry. The cake is really good."

"Off buttons?" Jess asks, looking bewildered. "What?"

"The trees have this spell on them. It's supposed to, well—" Sam finds himself stammering, suddenly reluctant to explain it like the witch did, now that he knows exactly what it will reveal. "It doesn't make you do anything you don't want to do. It just... takes what you want and makes you want it more. So you aren't as self-conscious about taking it, or something? She turns it off when they leave, but apparently, she forgot this time," he says, "She swears it won't happen again."

Jess is breathing slowly, staring at the table. "I can go sit in the kitchen, if you want," Sam suggests. "Dean's in the bedroom because if I left him out here, I'm pretty sure he would have taken off."

"The kitchen would be good," Jess says quietly, and Sam tries not to let it hurt when he goes.

It's a fucking mess. It's a fucking giant of a monster of a ridiculous mess, and then Dean goes flying, and there's blood in his eyes. He can hear Jess screaming, and Sam's body collapses to the ground, and Dean can't tell if that's good or not because five seconds ago, his shoes were scrambling for purchase as something wrapped around his neck and hung him from the ceiling.

Dean struggles to his feet, and then the girl, the stupid idiot that they're trying to fucking save from her own fucking stupidity stops screaming bloody murder. And, while that would normally be fucking A-okay with Dean, when she stops, it's to sigh, loud and unimpressed, and her eyes go solid black like Dean's never seen before, and the room—

It's suddenly brighter, and Dean didn't even realize how dark it was until it wasn't anymore.

"Honestly," she says, sneering at the bloody mess that is them. "I don't understand what it is my father sees in you chuckleheads. You're just lucky I'm a good daughter."

She walks over to Sam and nudges his side with her boot. Maybe it's a kick, if the way Sam groans is anything to go by. "Oh, goody. You didn't choke to death on your vomit. Maybe you aren't completely useless."

It hurts to swallow. Sam's pretty sure his windpipe is at least bruised. Maybe crushed. He doesn't know what a crushed windpipe feels like, and he can't remember if you can breathe through one right now.

Dean and Jess are fighting. Screaming at each other, to be specific. Which is not surprising, since that's pretty much the only way they've communicated with each other in the two and a half weeks since Sam "passed out."

Jess thinks they should run back to the apartment. Dean is not leaving his car here. And, of course, the best way to solve the problem of blood loss, head wounds, and pain so bad that it will probably actually be blinding soon is to scream at the top of their lungs at each other like the really shitty kids at the playground.

Sam is actually glad he can't speak right now, or they might try to make him pick sides.

"I can see Sam's cheekbone, I don't know how your eye is even still in its socket, and I'm pretty sure half my lip isn't supposed to be touching my chin," Jess yells. Sam doesn't actually know how either one of them have managed not to lose their voices yet. "Once the adrenaline wears off, we will not be able to function."

"And three people running on a college campus at two in the morning covered in blood will get the fucking cops called on us, and then we'll have to explain our illegal weapons, and they'll make us go to the fucking hospital."

"Of course we need to go to the hospital!" Jess screams. "Half our faces are missing!"

Sam wants to point out that that isn't actually even close to correct. It might be a good thing that he can't make much noise right now.

"Oh, really? And what are we gonna tell them, huh? That we, what? Got attacked by stray mountain lions who tied a rope around Sammy and tried to drag him off?"

Sam's throat really hurts right now, and he's resigned enough that his adrenaline is starting to wear off already. They can scream bloody murder at each other in the car; he just wants to go home and ice his neck before swallowing becomes even more painful.

It won't endear him to Jess, but he makes his way to the car and climbs in back, lying down and waiting patiently to pass out. Or for them to come get in the car. Whichever comes first.

A needle repeatedly going in and out of Dean's face, that close to his eyeball, is not Dean's idea of a good night. Given, it's probably not on Sam's list of Fun Shit To Do At Three In The Morning. But Sam's a fucking loser, so his list is probably things like "work on term papers" and "read that new boring-ass book like a virgin who will never have sex."

Okay, so Jess was fucking right. His face feels like something tried to rip it off. Which, hey, what do you know, something did. It hurts so bad that the only time it stops hurting is when it decides to thump in time with his heartbeat instead of keeping with its steady drum solo.

Dean would say he envies Jess for getting the knockout drugs, but seeing as how whatever the fuck that was back there actually did almost succeed in ripping the bottom half of her mouth from her face, he doesn't really envy shit about her right now.

Sam keeps flinching away from Dean, but only when the light catches on the needle and reflects in his peripheral vision. Dean keeps the stitches as tiny and tight as he can and mentally thanks Pastor Jim for going Green Beret before he "found God." No one better to learn this kind of thing from, even if he was Army.

On Sam's urging—those fucking eyes are even more effective when Sam's got a bruise wrapping around his throat—Dean calls Becca and asks her to let Sam and Jess's professors know that they're sick with something fucking horrible and bad.

Of course, it's five-thirty in the morning when Dean calls, and Becca's first class apparently isn't until ten, so first she curses him for ten minutes straight, then she hangs up on him.

There's apparently something called "Keep Your Job Gel" from Jess's "Auntie Dinah" that's on its way to them. But it can't be shipped through the mail, so it's coming along the Hunter Express, which makes pit stops every twenty feet when it isn't a life or death situation.

Jess swears it works even better than a plastic surgeon, and Dean just fucking hopes she's right. Chicks dig scars, so as long as he can still get laid, Dean doesn't give a fuck how good he heals up, but Sam and Jess would probably enjoy not getting stared at like sideshow freaks. At least any more than they already do.

"Why can't we be near people?" Sam asks. He voice is a fucking mess, and, Dean isn't gonna lie, it's a little hot. But the wincing when Sam tries to force his vocal chords to work is significantly less hot.

"I don't know," Dean says. "We all have the flu? Gonorrhea? The clap? Herpes?"

"Do you know any contagious diseases that aren't STDs?" Jess asks him. She seems moderately calm, which is a fucking nice improvement.

Dean thinks for a second. "...Chicken pox?"

They end up all faking scarlet fever. Dean had it once when Sam was little, and he doesn't remember much about it, but he remembers it's fucking super contagious and that he threw shit at Pastor Jim the entire time he was there because Sam couldn't stay in Dean's room or see him.

Dean tries to sit Sam down without Jess and talk about hunting. It would be funny in a sad kind of way—since they're all stuck in a two room apartment for the foreseeable future—if it didn't kind of make Sam want to strangle his brother.

"Grow up," he tells Dean before calling Jess over.

"Fine," Dean snaps. "But I fucking hope all the shit we did to the apartment soundproofs us now, because the last time I said anything, it all changed."

"Are you trying to be vague on purpose?" Jess asks. Sam is already regretting his decision.

Dean ignores her, thankfully. And it's sad when Sam is proud of Dean for acting like a three year old instead of a two year old.

"There were no hunts when I got here. None. And then, the second I said that shit out loud, all of a sudden there were so many hunts I didn't even have time to heal between them. And they're fucking weird hunts, too. Shit I haven't seen or heard of, and no ghosts. Did you notice that? Fucking shit that's supposed to be extinct and no actual ghosts."

"And what the hell was last night, huh?" Jess asks.

"That wasn't last night," Dean points out, just to fucking bother Jess. Or maybe that was just to bother her like normal. Sam can't even tell anymore because they're driving him insane.

"You mean the part where the civilian saved our asses," Sam asks. "Or the part where her dad likes me?"

"You got something to tell me about, Sam?" Jess asks, raising an eyebrow. She's trying for playful, but Sam is just so far beyond annoyed at her and Dean right now that he doesn't care.

"Oh, right," he croaks out, voice failing him at the most awkward moment possible. "I almost forgot; I'm sleeping with my AbPsych prof."

"Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, because I know you're gonna anyway," Dean says. "But I think she was talking about how the civilian summoned our ghost and then fucking saved us from whatever that was that was kicking our ass. And the bitch's black eyes. And the fact that her dad likes you."

A cold shiver went down Sam's spine. "What's so weird about black eyes?"

"Not like, punched in the face black," Jess clarifies. "But the inside part." Jess waves her hand towards her eyes.

"The sclera," Dean says.

"Yeah, the—how do you know the sclera?"

"Everyone knows that," Dean scoffs. Sam wants to know why they finally stop making his life miserable only when there's something else to take their place. Sam hopes he doesn't throw up. That would probably suck with a bruised throat.

"Sam?" Jess asks.

"You remember that hunt with the dire wolf?" Sam asks, quietly. It's only a whisper because his throat hurts. No other reason.

"You mean the one you dreamed?" Dean asks. They've all mutually agreed to keep calling them dreams, which helps Sam's sanity.

Sam nods. "His eyes were black when he killed you guys."

"You think this has something to do with why our apartment is Fort Knox now?" Jess asks.

"Maybe it's something your brain did," Dean tried to reason. "Maybe it just saw black because it knew the dude was gonna try and kill us."

"But I didn't see her eyes tonight," Sam points out. "And I didn't see them in the dream, either. She was just screaming and getting attacked by a ghost."

"So, we've got two people with black sclera, and someone that might be listening in on us and... what?" Jess asks. "Controlling the monsters around here? And people that keep saving themselves before we can. And Sam's dreams."

"And wards we've never seen before, protecting us from things we're not supposed to know about," Dean adds, helpfully.

Sam needs a drink.

On day seven, they all fall asleep under a fort in the living room because Sam and Dean were both horrified to hear that Jess had never made one before.

On day eight, the fighting starts again. Dean starts picking fights and being snippy and Jess tries to resist but he's being such a complete asshole for no reason that she can't help herself.

On day twelve, Jess catches Dean trying to make a break for it and sneak out. Jess is not stupid; she knows that if Dean makes it out that door, he won't come back.

"There's a hunt in Maine that needs me," he tells them.

"There just happens to be a hunt on the other side of the country in the only state with almost no cell reception?" Jess asks him.

Dean pauses for a second, clearly caught out. "...yes."

"Then we can come with you," Sam tells him. It isn't a suggestion.

"It's really more of a one-man job," Dean says.

"If you take one more step towards that door I will blow your kneecap out and you won't have to worry about hunting for at least two months."

Things get even more tense, which Jess didn't realize was possible. She thought the thing where they all almost lost their faces was a low point, but she was wrong.

Jess has no idea exactly what happens between Sam and Dean, but she knows that it happens while she's asleep— because otherwise she would have heard it— and it leaves Sam looking like he's had his heart forcibly ripped from his chest and stomped on.

Suddenly, he won't sit close to Dean anymore, and will barely say a word to him, and generally acts like he's afraid Dean will vanish forever if he does something wrong, and Jess is fucking sure that's exactly what Dean wants him to think because Dean is an idiot and likes being miserable for no reason.

Jess comes up with a plan. There's talking involved, and ambushing Dean in the bathroom while he's shaving, and telling him things he already knows.

But then some movie comes on with one of the actor's that Sam's always had a hard-on for, and since Dean and Sam are playing keep-away she gets to be their buffer while they sit on the couch. And Jess could not possibly feel safer with any other two people, so she doesn't bother with people clothes.

She's got on a ratty old t-shirt that is neither tight nor small on her, and yet drives Sam insane for some reason, a pair of boy shorts on, and just enough of a mean exhibitionist streak to rub Sam through his jeans all night while he squirms and Dean completely fails to pretend he's paying attention to the movie.

"Jess," Sam groans. His voice is rough, not like it was right after he got choked, but more towards the end of the healing, when it more resembled the way he sounds after giving a blowjob. Which is really just an amazing image to have right now, actually.

"Remember Matty?" she asks, squeezing Sam just enough before dragging her knuckles up the inseam of his jeans. Sam groans and shifts in his seat, eyes darting over from Dean to Jess and back. "Matty's one of Sam's exes," Jess tells Dean. "Big blue eyes, and dark, thick black hair. Not a big fan of girls, but he was a charter member of the fan club for Sam's mouth."

She eyes the bulge in Dean's jeans, and continues. "One time, he let Sam suck him off while I fucked Sam with my strap-on." Jess squirms in her seat, remembering how hot Sam looked filled at both ends. "Sadly, my strap-on is still back at my suite, but I bet Sam would be even happier if you fucked him while he ate me out." She punctuates this with another squeeze to Sam's cock and the unintelligible garble that comes out of his mouth really just makes her proud.

Dean is going to break. Jess knows he is, he just needs a tiny little push. "Or, you could sit there and tell him how to eat me out while you finger me. Or, you two could just have sex while I watch. I'm not really picky."

The magical healing salve gel ointment thing that is supposed to fix them up finally arrives.

To Sam's mild shock, it works.

But they pretend to have scarlet fever for a few more days.

At some point along the way, Sam and Jess have decided that Dean is their pillow.

Because Sam and Jess like to curl up on him and cuddle. Also, because they are both women. And possibly lesbians.

Right now, at this moment, Sam is half asleep and has his head over Dean's heart—seriously, what the fuck—and an arm slung over his waist. He's got a leg hitched over Dean and a hand on Jess's waist

Jess is more plastered against Dean's side than on top of him because she still has bigger balls than Sam. Her head is pillowed on Dean's shoulder, and her hand is scratching lightly at his stomach.

She has, of course, already pulled his arm down so that it's kind of curled over her whether he likes it or not.

Dean will move, eventually. But for now, he's pretty content where he is: in his apartment, in his bedroom, on the bed he shares with his Sam and his Jess.

Maybe Stanford doesn't totally suck.

Dean's phone chirps with a new voicemail. He has actually been sitting in front of it, so he's pretty sure he would have heard it if it rang. No missed calls, either.

When he keys in his password, static fills the line and, just behind that, he can hear his Dad's voice.

"It's coming for Sammy. Stay in Stanford."